January 27, 2011 | Posted by Joe Noga
For 10 memners of the 2010 State champion St. Edward High School football team and two of their classmates, Friday’s return to St. Bernadette School in Westlake was a very different sort of homecoming.
It was a chance for the Eagles to be honored for their accomplishments and also lend a hand for two important causes.
The student-athletes were greeted by a gym filled with cheering youngsters, many of whom donned green and gold shirts and caps to celebrate St. Edward’s first-ever football championship, along with the fact that St. Bernadette alumni played a major role in capturing the title.
But it was a different kind of cheer on display at the rally that captivated several of the Eagles’ standout players.
St. Bernadette officials used the occasion to kick off the school’s fundraising campaigns for two special projects, calling upon the St. Edward players to lead the way.
In the coming months, students at St. Bernadette will be raising money for the Shamrocks for Muscular Dystrophy campaign in honor of their classmate, R.J. Sullivan, who was diagnosed with the disease last year.
Likewise, St. Bernadette students will participate in a Kick-it for Cancer kickball tournament to raise money for pediatric cancer research in honor of classmate Michael Orbany, who recently had brain surgery and is battling cancer.
Sullivan and Orbany helped jumpstart both campaigns by dressing a pair of St. Edward offensive linemen as leprechauns with outlandish hats and gear. Then, the Eagles players put on a kickball demonstration in the gym for the entire school.
For the Eagles, it was a chance to feel the love and adulation from a place that gave them their start, while also giving them a sense of contributing to a far more important cause.
“It’s pretty amazing to come back here and see all the support and excitement these kids have for what we were able to accomplish,” said senior Matt Byrne.
“We didn’t know what to expect when they told us we’d be coming here,” added senior Shane McManamon. “We’re happy and proud. This is obviously amazing.”
Byrne and McManamon and their teammates greeted every student, slapping high-fives and shaking hands as the entire student body filed past their seats.
Several players, including quarterback Kevin Burke, T.J. O’Brien and Rob Coury, hugged their former teachers and posed for pictures with the younger brothers and sisters of their own friends and classmates.
Each of the St. Edward players in attendance received special Outstanding Alumni Awards and Bulldog spirit medals from Principal Helen Bykowski.
St. Edward President Jim Kubacki, also a St. Bernadette grad, later praised the players and their families for continuing the strong tradition of leadership and hard work that began at the elementary school level.
“They are wonderful leaders and good athletes,” Kubacki said. “But most of all, they are great people, and that all began right here.“
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