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Letter: Gladiator Fund Connor To Be Inducted in Volunteer Hall of Fame

New Hyde Park, for those who live here know it is an incredible town of individuals who care.  For the most part one needs little fanfare to realize the true spirit of community that exists in this little town that sits on the boarder of Queens.

While there are many individuals one can point to, that go the extra mile -  this writer wishes to draw attention to a young man, a family, a group of committed Americans who lucky for us, live in New Hyde Park.

I first met the Connor family, Joe and Mary – the source of strength and example for their eight children many years ago.  Joe, a very straight, this is the way it is individual, captured your heart after a few words of conversation.  Mary, smiling, calm and unassuming, was sure of her mission – and     quietly went about it. Thus - a family who were schooled in charity,  gave roots to the Gladiator Fund.

Dan Connor whose profession is a licensed social worker was a friend of our children as well as ourselves as he grew to adulthood. For years he has been an inspiration not only to us but to the community at large.  “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” is fitting in Dan’s case when one knows the family.

How true is it, if all of us just reached out to one another, so many of today’s needs would be met?  Caring in the community, without fanfare but genuine support is what Dan and the Gladiator Fund are all about.

In 1989, New Hyde Park Memorial alumnus Dan Connor was intent on finding a way to help two friends, Chris and Kate Butz, who had an infant son who was developmentally disabled.

He and fellow New Hyde Park alumnus struck on the idea of staging a fundraising event to help the family with their medical expenses. The result was a benefit dinner/dance in the spring of 1990 at the Knights of Columbus of New Hyde Park. Friends of the Butz family, including many alumni of New Hyde Park Memorial High School, responded to help pay for 3-year-old Chris Butz’s therapy and treatment.

“After that event, Dan was approached by several other young parents in New Hyde Park who had disabled children and needed help,” So from that initial effort to support a family in the community, the Gladiator Fund, a non-profit organization of New Hyde Park Memorial High School Alumni, was born.

In its 23 years of fundraising efforts, the Gladiator Fund has aided 50 children and 25 adults with various disabilities, including autism, leukemia, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy.

The fund, which originally focused on helping children, raises money through what has now become an annual dinner dance in the spring and a golf tournament each summer. As well as having a presence at the New Hyde Park Street Fair, the Gladiators sponsor individual initiatives, which while building community meet a specific need of an individual.

A social worker for 24 years, Connor’s impetus for establishing the organization was a sense of compassion and a desire to do something for the community. The Gladiator Fund is also a family affair. His brother Mickey is Executive Vice President and his brothers Joe, Jimmy and Chris and sister Patty Connor are all members of the group’s 15-member Board of Directors. The Long Island Volunteer Hall of Fame will induct Dan into an outstanding group of Long Islanders on February 5th at Carlyle on the Green, Bethpage State Park, Farmingdale.

It may be Super bowl Sunday but it will indeed be a Super Bowl Brunch for we who know the Gladiators – a beginning to a day of renown which for me has far more importance than believe it or not – what will be happening later in the afternoon.

On behalf of all those who have been touched by the Gladiator Fund, we extend great big congratulations from proud New Hyde Park residents – let us emulate your direction and share your light.

Colette Coyne
New Hyde Park