Villa Maria Academy has not forgotten a fallen NYPD hero’s message.
VMA commemorates three decades of student NYS Physical Fitness Test achievements at its second annual Detective Steven McDonald Evening of Champions on Tuesday, April 17 and Wednesday, April 18 at 5:30 p.m. in the Visitation Center.
According to Michael Bernard, VMA Physical Education director, the two-night award ceremonies are from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
This year’s keynote speakers include NYPD deputy chief Theresa Tobin and Josephine Pucci of Team USA’s Silver Medal-winning 2014 Olympic Hockey Female Team.
Students with the highest fitness achievement scores and their families are invited.
Each honoree travels onto a 15-foot long red carpet to receive trophies recognizing their accomplishments.
Confirmed special guests include McDonald’s wife Patricia Ann and their son sergeant Conor McDonald; Police Commissioner James O’Neill; five-time World Boxing Champion Iran ‘The Blade’ Barkley; 1969 World Series Champion NY Met Art Shamsky; retired professional heavyweight boxer Gerry ‘Great White Hope’ Cooney; Olympic Gold Medal Champion boxer Mark Breland; actor Holt McCallany; major Frank Parisi, U.S. Marines Corp. fighter pilot and Class of 1996 alumnus; FBI special agent Meghan Ahl, Class of 2000 alumna and Maxine Agee, widow of 1969 Met Tommy Agee and personal friend to the late Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson and his wife Rachel.
Cooney will bestow the Detective Steven McDonald Courageous Spirit Award to sixth grader Anthony Venturino for his calm-under-pressure temperament.
Award sponsor Mike Trapani, former VMA boxing coach and parent, was intrumental in securing Cooney for the gala, Bernard said.
The gala recognizes VMA’s kindergarten through eighth grade Fitness Champions, emphasizes physical education and honors McDonald’s memory.
The former U.S. Navy hospital corpsman and third generation police officer, McDonald, then 29-years-old, was shot three times in the line of duty on July 12, 1986 by 15-year-old Shavod Jones whom he was questioning about bicycle thefts in Central Park.
The attack paralyzed McDonald from the neck down rendering him a quadriplegic who depended on a ventilator to breathe.
McDonald forgave him and planned to have Jones join him in spreading a message of hope and forgiveness, however fate had other plans.
After serving nine years, Jones was killed in a motorcycle accident on September 9, 1995, three days after his release from parole.
McDonald dedicated his life toward spreading a message of courage, dedication and forgiveness to everyone he met.
On Tuesday, January 10, 2017, McDonald, 59, died after suffering a massive heart attack a few days prior.
McDonald became a regular guest speaker at the Evening of Champions after his friend NYPD chief of the Transit Bureau Edward Delatorre invited him.
Bernard and principal Sr. Teresa Barton were granted permission by Patricia and Conor to rename the celebration.
Bernard thanks parents and local businesses who have donated to the event.
For additional information, contact Bernard at (718) 823-5083.