Giants All-Pro defensive end Justin Tuck was honored for both his on-field performance and his off-field philanthropy when he was presented with the John V. Mara Sportsman of the Year Award at the 76th annual CYO Club of Champions Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria June 6.
Also honored were Alec McAuley, archdiocesan CYO director; Joe Panepinto, director of Catholic Charities for Staten Island and a former archdiocesan CYO director; and Alfred Kelly Jr., president and CEO of the 2014 NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Company.
Tuck, who said he would like to be remembered for more than “getting after Tom Brady a couple of times,” is committed, along with his wife, Lauran, to getting children to read through his RUSH for Literacy initiative. Tuck’s Mara Award followed the recent publication of his children’s book, “Home Field Advantage.”
“It’s weird to say that I’m an author. Obviously, it was a children’s book and it was true stories, so the writing was pretty easy. But it’s still pretty neat to say that you have a book out,” he told CNY shortly before taking the podium to accept his award.
The RUSH initiative—the acronym stands for Read, Understand, Succeed and Hope—is committed to raising funds to donate books and other reading materials to schools and communities in the New York metropolitan area and in Tuck’s home state of Alabama.
“It’s something that me and my wife are very passionate about, education and reading,” he said. “And we want to leave a legacy for our son and our kids. And I think that book is going to go a long way to doing that.”
Approximately 750 guests attended the dinner, which raised some $700,000 to support children and youth involved in CYO programs throughout the archdiocese.
The CYO honored two of its own as it presented Alec McAuley and Joe Panepinto with the Terence Cardinal Cooke Humanitarian Award for their outstanding commitment to youth.
McAuley, who was recently involved in a serious automobile accident when his car was struck by an allegedly drunk driver, talked to CNY before the ceremony and said that getting the award was particularly gratifying in light of the accident. McAuley, who said he expects to retire in September, said CYO has always been part of his life.
“I was very honored but felt like I didn’t really deserve it. I’m just doing my job at CYO,” he said. “But I felt this blessing since I had my car crash.
“I love CYO. I ran track at 8 years old at CYO on Long Island and then played basketball and baseball after that for a long time. And then I coached a couple of my kids in CYO basketball, so I’ve been around it and involved in it. When I first started as director I drove around in a CYO truck that Joe Panepinto used to have and it had a sign on it, ‘CYO: Part of Your Life, All of Your Life,’ and it seems like it’s been that way for me.”
Panepinto has an even longer tenure with CYO and Catholic Charities. “This year I will begin my 34th year with Catholic Charities and CYO,” he noted in accepting his honor. “I’ve had the pleasure of serving under four cardinals, Terence Cardinal Cooke, Cardinal O’Connor, Edward Cardinal Egan and Cardinal Dolan. They’ve all treated me with the utmost respect and were always there for the young people of this archdiocese.” He also thanked Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities, for his “friendship” and guidance over the years.
Alfred Kelly Jr., president and CEO of the 2014 New York/New Jersey Super Bowl Host Company, was presented with the Gold Medal Award, presented annually to an individual “who has provided inspiration and leadership to the youth of New York City.” He also has had a long involvement with CYO, as a coach and a volunteer.
“In a world where young people communicate in a modern-day form of Morse code, text messaging with numerous shortcuts, CYO provides an alternative,” Kelly in accepting his award. “Through its art shows, its summer camps, its ministry programs, cheerleading and sports programs, CYO promotes verbal communication, wellness, teamwork, friendship and values. It is these qualities that form the bedrock of becoming a good person. It is these key elements of life, under the umbrella of our Catholic faith, that helps young people get ready for the migration to college and, ultimately, adulthood.”