Blood drive for O’Grady unites neighborhood

Scott Ryan donated a pint of blood in honor of his pal, Joe O’Grady, at St. Benedict’s Church on Sunday, January 3. Phlebotomist Angelica Cangiano helped out. Photo by Walter Pofeldt

Friends, family, co-workers and neighbors stopped by St. Benedict’s Church on Sunday, January 3 to show support and donate blood in honor of Joseph O’Grady, a Throggs Neck resident battling a rare form of cancer.

The 38-year old and his family turned down funds from the Throggs Neck Benevolent Association, but endorsed the blood drive. Some 300 people attended and 240 pints of blood were collected, three times the average amount collected at similarly-sized blood drives.

O’Grady’s sisters, Patricia Flynn and Peggy O’Grady, helped run the event, staged with help from the New York Blood Center.

“[The drive] was overwhelming because it completely filled Father Albert Hall [at St. Benedict’s],” O’Grady, a teacher at St. Martin of Tours School at 695 E. 182nd Street, said. “People came to give blood and braved the elements to do it. They were from all walks of life: my niece, my wife’s friends and former students.”

O’Grady, a member of the Turner Club known for his stand-up comedy routine and tenacity on the basketball court, was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma in fall 2008. He and his wife Shannon are both teachers. She teaches fourth grade at P.S. 304. Bronx Catholic School superintendent Roseann Carotenuto helped spread the word about the blood drive.

O’Grady coaches sports at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains. The O’Gradys are parents to John, Thomas and Ivanmene, aged two through nine.

O’Grady undergoes aggressive cancer treatment five days a week, blood transfusions included. He was thrilled when his sister Patricia and friend Danny Boyle suggested the blood drive.

“I probably wouldn’t have come up with the idea if I hadn’t gotten a call from New York Blood Center in November saying that I was eligible to donate blood,” Flynn said. “Joe wasn’t accepting any financial help. I’m just glad he was able to spend a couple of hours at the blood drive. He was amazed at the outpouring of support from old friends and neighbors.”

The drive at St. Benedict’s followed a blood drive at Archbishop Stepinac High School in December. The latter netted more than 130 pints of blood. O’Grady, raised in Throggs Neck, considers himself blessed.

“He’s a gracious man who thinks that there are a lot of other people who are worse off than he is,” Flynn stated. “He looks around at his support system and his kids and says that he feels lucky.”

Reach reporter Patrick Rocchio at 718 742-3393 or

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