Students and their families packed into the Visitation Center at Villa Maria Academy on Friday, March 13 for the 21st annual Breakfast of Champions.
The event honors those who in the K-8 school who have the highest scores on the New York State physical fitness test – administered to every student in their physical education program.
The keynote speaker was Detective Anthony Senft, who was injured while diffusing a bomb in 1982 – spending years in a coma. He lost one eye, and had his face and entire body badly burned. Nevertheless, he returned to the NYPD and retired this past December.
“I hope that the kids take away [from my talk] that there are ups and downs in life, and no matter what obstacles you face, you have to preserve,” Senft said.
Michael Bernard, the physical education instructor at Villa Maria Academy, hosted and was master-of-ceremonies for the event.
“I would like the kids to take away from listening to today’s speakers that you don’t have to be in first place to be considered a champion,” Bernard said. “They should realize that it is important to stay physically fit – it will make their lives better.”
Also honored at the event was NYPD Lieutenant Gary Abrahall, who was part of a team of officers that were injured while arresting a deranged man with a gun in Queens last year.
“Life is a big peg board, and you have to find the peg that fits you,” Abrahall said to the kids. “I put together my intelligence and strength and became a police officer.”
NYPD Chief Edward DellaTorre, five-time boxing champion Iran Barkley, and Assemblyman Rueben Diaz Jr. also spoke.
“I am the father of one of the students who is the champion,” Diaz said. “The Breakfast of Champions is about the lessons that we learn about keeping a sound mind, body and spirit.”
Cooking the food that fed the 600 people who attended the breakfast was Judy, Joe and Danny Savino.
The event first started years ago as a coffee and donut gathering, but began serving hot food when Joe, Judy and Danny Savino offered to make it more special by donating all the eggs, fruit and side dishes for many years.
The Breakfast of Champions staff that helped make the event possible was Marykay Champlin, April Ausperger, Christina Caldarola, Bailey Provetto, Debbie O’Grady, Janet John, John Zervos, John Marano, Mike Martire and Marisa Bernard.