A NYPD detective’s memory will live on in Villa Maria Academy’s time honored tradition.
Villa Maria Academy will celebrate its 28th annual Physical Fitness Dinner Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, March 14 and its 28th annual Evening of Champions Dinner Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, March 15 at 6 p.m. at its Visitation Center.
Michael Bernard, VMA Physical Education director, said the annual Evening of Champions will be renamed the ‘Detective Steven McDonald Evening of Champions’.
Guest speakers include Victor Delgado and Joe Rivera, Jr. both of whom narrowly survived tragic accidents.
The Detective Steven McDonald Evening of Champions’ purpose to recognize Villa’s Fitness Champions from kindergarten through eighth grade emphasizing physical education’s importance and to honor McDonald’s memory.
Bernard confirmed NYPD commissioner James O’Neil and McDonald’s family will attend this year’s Evening of Champions.
A 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 brutal attack paralyzed McDonald from the neck down rendering him a quadriplegic who depended on a ventilator to breathe.
He was married less than a year, with his wife expecting their son, Conor, when he was injured.
Several months after his life changing ordeal, McDonald received a call from Jones apologizing for his actions.
McDonald forgave him and was planning 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.
In December 2003, former NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly presented McDonald a surprise double promotion to detective first grade.
On Tuesday, January 10, McDonald, 59, passed away after suffering a massive heart attack a few days prior.
He was waked a St. Agnes Parish Center on Wednesday, January 11 and a funeral Mass was held on Friday, January 13 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Bernard and principal Sr. Teresa Barton attended the Mass in which over 4,000 police officers and civilians paid their respects.
“It was one of the most impressive funerals I’ve ever been to and it showed how much he inspired people,” he noted.
McDonald became a regular guest speaker at the Evening of Champions after his friend NYPD assistant chief Edward Delatorre invited him.
Bernard and Sr. Barton were granted permission by McDonald’s wife Patricia Ann McDonald and their son, sergeant Conor McDonald to rename the celebration.
“It’s a honor to rename this event for detective McDonald and we hope it keeps him alive in the hearts and minds of everyone at Villa Maria Academy,” expressed Bernard.