STRATFORD—The 31st Annual Cardinal Shehan Center Celebrity Breakfast turned out to be a memorable one as it was the last one celebrated by Terry O’Connor, the long-time executive director, and also included a lively Question and Answer session with talk radio sports icon Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo.
Hundreds of friends and benefactors filled a packed banquet hall to support the ongoing youth learning, recreation and mentoring mission of the Shehan center.
Many gave words of thanks for O’Connor’s 26 years of service to the center during this morning’s breakfast held at the Vazzano’s Four Seasons.
O’Connor passes the torch to Lorraine Gibbons as the new executive director as of January 1 of both the McGivney Community Center and Cardinal Shehan Center. O’Connor’s son Ryan will be the new director of development.
Addressing O’Connor, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim remarked, “What a great turnout, what a great showing of support for the Shehan Center and all the work that has been done for 31 years…that is quite a tribute, Terry.”
“Tens of thousands of young people benefit from your work and have for decades and for the support that everyone here offers in so many different capacities and roles,” said Ganim.
“The Shehan Center has always played a big role in my life,” Shehan member Samuel Alvarez served as the traditional youth guest speaker.
Samuel, a seventh grader at St. Augustine Catholic Academy in Bridgeport, said, “I have been attending the Cardinal Shehan Center since I was five and it has been an important part of my life these past few years.”
Samuel spoke about how the Shehan center has allowed him to make new friends, enjoy fun things such as the game room, movie room and art room. Samuel also spoke about his love for robotics, an activity which has been available for two years.
“This has inspired me to study biology and physics,” Samuel said. “The Cardinal Shehan Center has benefited me because it has helped me learn leadership skills,” he said as he described the leadership program, during which sixth, seventh and eighth graders at the center can talk about world events and how they are effected by them.
Samuel also described how the Shehan Center provides students with job readiness skills, opportunities for field trips and may other activities.
After thanking everyone who has helped him at the Shehan Center, Samuel added, “…I want to thank God too, he has guided me here.”
Father Charles Allen, S.J. blessed the event, praising all the good works the Shehan Center does and praying for all its efforts.
All proceeds from the breakfast will benefit the Shehan Center’s After School and Saturday program.
The Shehan Center Celebrity Breakfast is held in the fall and brings nationally known speakers to Bridgeport for a fundraising breakfast that benefits the various programs offered at the center.
Local business leaders, educators, and politicians serve as “Celebrity Waiters” and purchase a table of ten for their friends and/or colleagues. The waiters serve breakfast to their guests and each guest leaves a “tip” that is a donation to the Cardinal Shehan Center.
Past Celebrity speakers include Ed Cooley, Mike Lupica, Gail Goodrich, Frank Gifford, Jack Welch, Jim Nantz, Rod Thorn, Tiki Barber, Dan Hicks, Brian Cashman and Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.
This year’s guest speaker was Chris Russo, known as “Mad Dog,” who is an American sports radio personality best known as the former co-host of the Mike and the Mad Dog sports radio show with Mike Francesa, which was broadcast on WFAN in New York City and simulcast on the YES Network. Russo joined Sirius XM Radio in August 2008 and is in charge of his own channel, Mad Dog Radio. He also hosts an afternoon radio show, Mad Dog Unleashed, SiriusXM Ch. 82 Mad Dog Sports Radio. In 2013, he added to his daily routine hosting the baseball show High Heat on MLB Network.
Russo is known for his quick manner of speaking, his whistles and his trademark greeting of “Good afternoon everybody!” at the start of the Mike and the Mad Dog show, which he was sure to demonstrate for the crowd. Russo currently resides in New Canaan.
“God closes one window and he opens up another one,” the “Mad Dog” remarked while explaining his journey into the world of sports radio.
Russo talked sports in a Q&A with the crowd, as well as taking questions about some of his most memorable radio moments. “It’s God’s work,” he said of his successful career.
The Cardinal Shehan Center is a non-profit organization located in Bridgeport. For 55 years the Center has served the recreational, educational and social needs of moderate and low-income families and young people of lower Fairfield County, particularly inner city Bridgeport. Their mission is enriching lives through learning. This is accomplished by offering an after school & Saturday youth development program, summer day camp, various basketball leagues, sign-up programs, physical education classes to grammar schools and alternative education programs. The Center commits itself to offering a clean, safe environment where positive, growth-enhancing opportunities are offered regardless of race or religious affiliation.
(To find out more about the Cardinal Shehan Center visit: www.shehancenter.org.)