Mike Cavanaugh was suffering through an eight-game losing streak a few years ago as head coach of the men’s hockey team at UConn. Into his office walked Donald “Dee” Rowe, special advisor for athletics, asking how Mr. Cavanaugh was doing.
“Ah, I’m all right,” the beleaguered coach said.
“Open up your top drawer,” Mr. Rowe said.
What do you mean?”
“Open up your top drawer.”
He opened it.
“That’s the problem,” Mr. Rowe said. “You need a bottle of scotch at times like these.”
Anecdotes like this were shared by golfers, coaches and sportscasters June 6 during the 32nd annual Franciscan Sports Banquet, a major fundraiser for the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in Meriden, at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville. More than 500 attended.
Rich Coppola, sports director at Fox 61 since 1989, was the recipient of the Dean of Sports Award, named in honor of the late sportscaster Arnold Dean. Coppola told the Transcript that he feels a special kinship with last year’s recipient, Tony Terzi, with whom he worked at Fox 61 for many years and who regularly co-emcees the banquet with his father, Al Terzi.
Mr. Coppola said he is especially enamored with the Franciscan Sisters. “They’re such a wonderful group of people, and I just hope they understand how much it means to me to be associated with them,” he said.
Jim Calhoun, retired head coach of the UConn men’s basketball team, has attended the banquet for about 29 years. He said, “I became hooked on the Franciscan Sisters” during that first banquet because of their ability to make everyone feel special. “It’s not about my faith in God,” he said; “it’s my faith in humanity. That night, I felt proud to be a Catholic.”
Mr. Calhoun introduced Mr. Cavanaugh as winner of this year’s Jim Calhoun Community Service Award.
He also had kind words to say about Mr. Rowe, who preceded him as basketball head coach at UConn. “He’s been kind of our roving ambassador for sports, but he’s more of an ambassador for UConn,” Mr. Calhoun told the Transcript. “He’s a good man.”
Mr. Rowe received the St. Francis Award for his outstanding achievements in sports. In introducing him, Tim Tolokan, special assistant to the director of athletics at UConn, said the 88-year-old Mr. Rowe this year will receive the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor given by the Basketball Hall of Fame outside of enshrinement.
Suzy Whaley, vice president of the PGA, received the St. Clare Award in recognition of her excellence in golf, especially as a pioneer for women golfers. Her aunt, Pat McGrath, said in her introduction that Suzy was the only girl on her high school boys’ golf team all four years.
In 2002, she and Annika Sörenstam became the first women since Babe Zaharias in 1945 to qualify for PGA tour events. In 2018, Ms. Whaley will become the first female president of the PGA, the largest sports organization in the world.
Also recognized were Ron and Janice Reynolds, recipients of the Mother Shaun Appreciation Award; athletes of Special Olympics Connecticut; Jonathan Carroll, head boys’ basketball coach at Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury; and his basketball team, winners of the 2016 CIAC Class L tournament.
Monica and Dante Carrafa of Southington have attended the banquet for at least 10 years. “We love to support the Franciscan Sisters. They are very important to us. They’re wonderful for the community. They have so many different programs that they’re involved in,” Mrs. Carrafa said.
“A friend of mine was in hospice and he said the care was wonderful,” Mr. Carrafa said. Their daughter, Cynthia Carrafa Petrello, supports the Franciscans through the Petrello Family Foundation and reserves several tables each year.
Tony and Joan Ginnetti attended the event as guests of Father Jeffrey V. Romans, their pastor at St. Bridget Parish in Cheshire.
“I’m looking forward to looking at some of the memorabilia that’s around here. I’m also looking forward to hearing Rich Coppola. I see him on TV. He’s my idol,” said Mr. Ginnetti.
Joseph and Patricia Petrone, parishioners at St. Patrick Parish in Farmington, have attended for more than 12 years, guests of honorary chairman of the banquet Bob Fiondella. “It’s always fun to come and see the people who are in it and the work that they do, and the sisters especially, for the work that they do,” Mr. Petrone said.
Father James Sullivan, pastor of Church of the Assumption in Ansonia, said he feels a special bond with the Franciscan Sisters because his brother, John Sullivan, built the chapel the sisters use.
“I followed the project as it was being done, and so I have an appreciation for it from my fami-ly’s end, my brother’s, and the sisters’. This is a great event for them and for the community,” he said.
The Franciscans also sponsor the Franciscan Golf Classic and an annual Christmas fair. Money raised helps fund the Franciscan Life Center and the Franciscan Home Care and Hospice Care.