Reunions are usually reserved for school classes, but the stand-up comedy fundraiser in honor of the late Joe O’Grady was an unofficial assemblage of Throggs Neck residents past and present.
O’Grady passed away in July at age 39 after a battle with Synovial Sarcoma, and on Saturday, April 30, friends held a comedy night fundraiser for the education of his three children.
Over 500 people attended the event, which was held at Stepinac High School in White Plains, where O’Grady coached baseball. Ten comedians performed, including Saturday Night Live alum Colin Quinn.
The fundraiser raised $50,000 for the O’Grady children, as many Throggs Neck residents and natives crossed paths for the first time in years.
“If you had to leave your seat to go the bathroom it was a half-hour routine because you saw so many people you had to say ‘hi’ to, and hadn’t seen in so many years,” said Laurie Galioto, an O’Grady family friend and one of the event’s organizers. “I didn’t expect it to have that kind of flavor.”
Tickets were $100 each and there was also a raffle that had a distinct O’Grady feel. Prizes were either related to Throggs Neck, gift certificates to the Wicked Wolf and Rino’s, or sports events, Yankees tickets, Jets tickets and signed jerseys from Yankees and Knicks.
One of the event organizers, Matt O’Brien, cooked 30 trays of food to feed attendees.
The fact that a night that could easily have been solemn had such an upbeat feel was ultimately a testament to the man being remembered.
“I expected it would be a somber mood,” Galioto said. “But that’s the type of guy Joe was. If you were down He would just make a big joke out of it.”
All proceeds went to a trust for O’Grady’s three children, Idamene, 10; John, 4; and Thomas, 3.
Joe O’Grady’s widow, Shannon, didn’t expect the night’s entertainment to be age-appropriate, so she left the children at home.
“Too many four-letter words,” she said. “I try to keep them away from curse words.”
For adults, both the comedy and the spirit of the evening were a success. They got to laugh but they also got to remember a friend.
“Quite frankly it’s always going to be bitter sweet because my husband isn’t present,” Shannon said. “It’s not going to the rip-roaring great time it would be if he were alive.I had a great time but there were moments I missed him, and I’m sure other people did too.”