Thursday, January 26, 2012

25 Years - Jack O'Leary Pasta Night / Scholarship

On Saturday night, January 28, I have the honor of attending the St. Clare's Jack O'Leary Pasta Night / Student Scholarship at St. Clare's School in New York.   This event has been held EVERY YEAR since my Dad's death (February 1988).

My kids "love going to pasta night" each year. It really is a blast for kids - loud music, buffet style food, dancing, raffle prizes!  The organizers (Mary Lou and Nat) really have done a tremendous job hosting and have kept this tradition alive.

To think that I have not seen my Dad in ALMOST 25 years feels weird to type.  There is a sense of loss that impacts me today especially knowing family and many friends did not have the chance to meet him.  However through that time a fighting spirit, a blessing and even a mantra developed within me saying in my life I will thrive not just survive.

I look forward to sitting back and watching my kids dance the night away.
If you can make it, I look forward to seeing you as well.
Nothing formal - just a time to live, laugh and love and think of Grandpa Jack.

What is the Jack O'Leary Scholarship?
This is an annual scholarship for two 8th grade students from St. Clare's who have shown both academic and athletic achievement throughout their grammar school career.  One boy and one girl are chosen and are the recipients of this scholarship each year at Graduation.

Who is Jack O'Leary?
Jack O'Leary was an active member of St. Clare's School and Church from 1975 until his death in 1988. He loved children and knew that a child would excel in school if given the gift of pride in him/herself and pride in his/her school.  He was not only a member and President of the Father's Club during his time here, he was also the reason why the sports programs at St. Clare's are so strong today. He set out and succeeded in resurrecting the boy’s basketball program in 1978, coaching boy’s junior varsity and varsity basketball teams and helping to organize and coach girl's basketball teams at both the varsity and junior varsity levels.  For Halloween, while many folks complained about the trouble that kids caused, Jack did something about it. He understood the need to keep students involved, so he started the Rag-A-Muffin Parade and Haunted House with the Father's Club.

Why a Pasta Night Dinner?
At the first Pasta Night, the Father's Club came together to cook a simple meal, pasta and salad, and gather as a community to laugh and strengthen the St. Clare's family.  This was because Jack O'Leary was a simple man who enjoyed the community of St. Clare's because of the friendships and laughter, which surrounded him here. He would not have wanted the recognition, but would have been honored by the fact that the men who knew him honored him most fittingly:  by giving to others.  Jack represented selflessness.  He was selfless in giving to the school, his community and anyone who ever came in contact with him.  When he wasn't volunteering at the school as a coach or dressing up for Halloween as Fozzy the Bear he was dressed as a clown entertaining handicapped and sick children. So, this was the beginning of a wonderful tradition of not only honoring this man for who he truly was, but for doing so by fostering the things that meant most to him, friendship.

Why is the tradition important?
Today more than ever it is important to celebrate the commitment of family and education.  It takes a community to raise a child and the most important community is the child's Church and school.  Jack's life is an example of the commitment to his family, his church and to humanity. It is a testament to how important a parent's involvement in the school is to the success and happiness of their children and all the children of the community.