It all started out with a simple text that said, "Charity golf tourney. Got your fingerprints all over it". The message was from one of my closest pals and neighbor Mark Mangino. When we had the chance to speak later that day on the phone, he explained what it was all about. The tourney was to take place on Thursday, August 8th at West Point, and was in honor of Army Major Thomas "TK" Kennedy. On August 8th of 2012, Major Kennedy was killed by a suicide bomber while serving in Afghanistan. Mark had known him, and said you'd be hard-pressed to find a better example of an all-around great human being. TK left behind a wife Kami, and 2-1/2 year-old twins Maggie and Brody. The fundraiser was to raise funds to establish a trust for the twins' college education. I've always had a soft-spot for anything military or kids related, and throwing the Irish angle in there, this was a no-brainer to get involved with.
Once I committed to attend and hung up the phone, I gave this some more thought. It is because of individuals like TK who made the ultimate sacrifice, and really anyone who proudly serves in our Armed Forces, that I can take my 18 month-old son for a walk in his stroller safely every morning. With my capabilities and connections in fundraising, I came to the conclusion that this warranted more than just showing up to play golf and buy a bunch of raffle tickets.
The biggest issue and hurdle I faced was time. I was only days away from a long-planned family boat trip in the , and the tourney would be held less than a week after our return. With many of our ports of call being in the middle of nowhere while overseas, there'd be no phone, and spotty Internet at best. If I wanted to make something happen, the hammer would have to put down then and there. Sitting in my man cave, I looked on the wall where one of my favorite autographed guitars hung. I have a pal Louis who collects this sort of memorabilia, and decided to give him a ring. After explaining to him what the charity was about, I told him of the guitar that might need a new home for a worthwhile cause. All he had to was write a nice big check with a number suggested to TK's charity, and the guitar was his. Louis readily agreed, plus ended up giving even more. This was off to a good start.
Thinking back to my run, and eventual win, of the National Man of the Year for LLS cancer research, it came to me that probably my biggest money-maker during that period was the one-of-a-kind silent auction packages I put together. I have pals in every line of work imaginable. If it worked so well that time (and times before), why not do it again? Phone calls were made and emails sent to see what I could gather together. Before I knew it, Deb, Beckett, and I were on our way to JFK to fly to Trieste, Italy to meet the boat, my in-laws, and some family friends.
Apparently it didn't take long for word to get around of what I was up to. Upon landing in Italy and hitting the , I had about 30 messages waiting for me, pretty much all saying "What do you need or have in mind?" This only made me tap out some more emails with new inquiries to see what would happen. Then more responses came in throughout the trip. It was yet another example of how fortunate I am with the caliber and quality of folks I surround myself with. As my dear departed Father once told me... "Son, in life there are energy givers, and energy takers. Get rid of the takers, and cultivate the givers." Just goes to show what folks can do coming together as a collective, and making something good come out of a horrifically tragic situation.
At this moment I'd like to spend a special thank you to my wife Debbie. Way too many times to mention while working on this during our vacation, she gladly gave up her "Mommy free/relax time" to continue to watch Beck so I could continue tapping away on my iPad. Mrs. O'Malley, you are and always will be my #1 Rockstar.
Regarding our trip abroad...If you're ever lucky enough like we were to have the opportunity to see coastal Italy, Croatia, and Greece, mortgage the farm and do it. Fantastic people, and scenery so beautiful it's almost hallucinogenic. When I get called to the "great golf course in the sky", it's definitely a trip I will reminisce upon, and saying thanks to my in-laws Jason and Rena Pilalas will never be enough....
Returning home was when the real work started. That's when we had to begin sorting through the various silent auction items/certificates and private donation checks that had been sent while we were away, in order to create the packages. There is just a ton of mundane behind the scenes paperwork that needs to be completed with this sort of thing. Throw in having a jet-lagged baby (and parents), getting back into a "we're home" routine, and dealing with a both pissed off and needy-because-Daddy-skipped-town-for-three-weeks 130 pound Rottweiler, and it was a challenge. It seemed a flash from that point to loading up the car to head to the tournament.
Don't know if you've been to West Point before, but if you have, you'll agree it's truly stunning. The golf course is blow your mind quality. Obviously the tourney was packed with both current and former West Pointers, and you couldn't meet a finer bunch of men, young and old. If Beckett grows up to be like any of the gents I met, you won't find a prouder father who feels a job well done.Looking back on this event from start to finish, of the hundreds of charity events I've participated in before (all which were special in their own way), I can't recall one that was such an emotional rollercoaster ride. I'll admit that I had a tough time holding it together when TK's brother John spoke so warmly and eloquently in front of the packed tournament welcoming everyone before we tee'd off. This being the exact one year anniversary of TK's death, one can't imagine how difficult it was for his family. That said, there was also a genuine sense of celebration in honor of one of life's great guys, and the Kennedy family was the personification of class, dignity, and kindness. Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy, TK's brothers John and George, along with Kami and the kids, could have not been nicer or more appreciative of everyone's efforts.
The tourney was played, god knows how many beers consumed (thanks Yuengling!), and my foursome came in a respectable 4th place. I'm not sure if I can remember having as much fun and laughing so hard at a tournament. It was a true cast of characters.
Post tourney, I was honored to be asked by John and George to tag along with a small group of TK's closet pals to visit his gravesite at West Point. Watching and listening to what was being said and reminisced about while everyone was gathered around, I'd have to guess that TK was looking down from above with a huge grin on his face. It was a moment in time I won't ever forget.
The time came for the post-tourney event at the Thayer Hotel, and that's when the party really kicked off, which was pretty frightening considering the chicanery going on since 11am. Lord knows I love a great party for a great cause, and this one was serious business. These folks know how to have a good time, and there's no doubt that I've now made a number of close pals for life. I also had the pleasure of meeting and having a nice chat with General Martin Dempsey, who is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. One would think that the most powerful man in the United States military might be a stiff or an imposing figure. I found him to be a truly welcoming and warm guy. Plus he gave one of the best speeches I have ever heard. It was obvious he was very fond of TK, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house, including his own.
For obvious reasons I had a keen interest in how the silent auction was going, especially the items I (we) put together. When I first decided to kick things up a notch with my efforts, a personal goal of $5,000 dollars was set. When all was said and done, and I calculated what "Team O'Malley" brought in via silent auction, raffles, private donations, etc, I was absolutely thrilled with what the final number was. And that was just under $20,000.
It goes without saying the tournament was a roaring success, and there was a substantial number raised for this most worthwhile cause when all was said and done. A special mention and thanks should go out to Dan Ryan, who did a terrific job being in charge of the silent auction. There are few things in life that are more pulling your hair out/ wanting to jump out a window than the juggling chainsaws aspect of being the point man for a large silent auction. He handled it flawlessly.
In closing, I'd like to ask you to please take a peek at the two lists below the attached photo. If you know any of the individuals, give 'em a pat on the back. If a business, please consider them in the future. They all stepped up big on very short notice.
And to you, each member of Team O'Malley who donated in some way to this cause... About 15 years from now when I'll officially be a senior citizen, and Maggie and Brody entering their latter teens, something really fantastic is going to happen to you completely out of the blue. Rest assured at that very moment, it was probably the first time a pen was put to check for these kids' college education.
For that, on behalf of the entire Kennedy family, you have our most sincere appreciation. Thank you so very much.
The "Where do I send the check?" Rockstars
Jason and Rena Pilalas
The "Assist with Silent Auction" Rockstars
Gena Rositano and Saturday Night Live
Jim Haskins/Anne Marie Lynch of the NHL
Linda Kibak and Frosch Travel
Leigh Cherrier and Louis Licari at Louis Licari Salon
Anne and Nancy Wilson of Heart
Phil Collen and Def Leppard
Brad Richards of the NY Rangers
Gary Byrne/Frank Spinelli/Gabriel Kuan/Justin Scarpa and Courtyard by Marriott
Theresa Nocerino and the Sherry Netherland Hotel NYC
The Gramercy Park Hotel NYC
The Greenwich Hotel NYC
The London NYC Hotel
Jackie DeCamera and Trump Bedmister NJ GC
Cary Stephan and Trump Briarcliff NY GC
Chef Sue Torres and Suenos NYC
Chefs Chris Santon/Tom Gillespie at Beauty and Essex NYC
Scott Gould and Del Frisco's Steakhouse NYC
Gabe Hernandez/Laura Weisinger and Capital Grille NYC
Steve Townsend/Eric Wellman/Jimmy Kearney at Q1043 FM
And last, but certainly not least...Mark Mangino