The Scholarship Fund for Inner-City Children 2017 Annual Gala was a night of laughter, music, and a joyous celebration of the children and families who receive the precious gift of Catholic education.
The festive event at The Venetian in Garfield, recognized Tony and Christie de Nicola and Jack Walton, was the first Gala appearance for Cardinal Joseph William Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, and was punctuated by a beautiful speech by Student Speaker and SFIC Scholarship Recipient A’Lyiah Thomas, a graduating eighth-grader from St. Joseph the Carpenter School in Roselle. But the evening was infused with the spirit of the man who made it all possible, SFIC founder Archbishop Peter L. Gerety, who passed to his eternal reward last fall.
The gregarious, barrel-chested Cardinal Tobin chatted and joked with guests, posing for photos and getting to know the welcoming Student Ambassadors from St. Augustine School in Union City. Dressed in his formal black cassock with cardinal piping, His Eminence charmed the audience throughout the evening.
The positive energy reached another level when this year’s Gala Chairman, Henry Amoroso, announced a “pledge challenge” generously put forward by the The de Nicola’s whereas they would match all donations received throughout the evening, dollar-for-dollar -up to a cumulative $100,000! The room buzzed with excitement for the rest of the evening as the video screens around the room continued to update the gift totals as they neared the $100,000 mark. In all, the event raised over $950,000 – setting a new SFIC Gala record.
“We didn’t just break our Gala fundraising record –we shattered it.” said Gerry O’Connor, SFIC
Executive Director. “The success of this event is going to really make a difference. While last year we were privileged to lend assistance to over 1,500 students, SFIC was unable to help an additional 1,800 children –who otherwise qualified for assistance. Our capacity just expanded and I’m looking forward to calling these families with the good news they’ve been anxiously waiting for.”
Ms. Thomas, the eighth-grader, gave moving remarks about the impact of being a SFIC scholarship recipient. “When God was giving out parents, I sure got lucky,” she said. “I watched them sacrifice and worry about paying for school. The Scholarship Fund allowed them to keep me in St. Joseph the Carpenter School.”
Thomas has certainly made the most of her opportunity. She serves as Student Council President, as a member of the Forensics Team, Captain of the basketball and volleyball teams and performs in the school choir. She also found time to compete in the Union County Teens Arts Festival.
“I thank you all,” said the young woman who will be attending Union Catholic Regional High School in the Fall. “Because of your generosity, you allowed me to not just go to a school, you allowed me to join a family. The faculty and staff at St. Joseph the Carpenter, like all the schools in the Archdiocese, help us grow in confidence and faith in ourselves, and in our relationship with God. I stand here loved and fortunate. Thanks to you, I stand in gratitude. God bless you all.”
The Gala reached its emotional apex with a moving video tribute to Archbishop Peter L. Gerety, the guiding light for the SFIC. He was the visionary who saw a way to match the passion for philanthropy among people of all faiths in the region with the families in need assistance to give their children the opportunity to stay in the faith-based schools that boast 100 percent graduation, a safe haven and a home for honing the educational skills that help students reach their potential and grow in education and in all their faiths. The room of more than 350 fell completely silent, enraptured by the images that showed the breadth and depth of Archbishop Gerety’s life in Christ.
The Gala audience was treated to a pair of stellar musical performances: Vox, the premiere a cappella boys’ choir from St. Peter’s Preparatory School in Jersey City, the state’s only Jesuit High School, performed before dinner. All evening, Tim McLoone and the Shirley’s entertained the crowd with music that got them out of their seats and on the dance floor. McLoone, a graduate of Seton Hall Prep, even called up one of his classmates from the audience to play bass on one song. McLoone and his band helped give this special night an even more celebratory feel.
The evening will be remembered as another stepping stone in the SFIC’s celebration of stewardship for the next generation of faith-based educational opportunities.
To learn more about The Scholarship Fund for Inner-City Children or if you would like to give a child-in-need “The Gift of Education”, go to www.SFICNJ.org or by calling SFIC Executive Director, Gerry O’Connor, at 973-497-4279.
To view some photos from the Annual Gala, click here.