by Patricia Harty
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame’s famed football coach, visited the seaside community of Breezy Point, New York, on Tuesday, April 22.
He was there to take part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Catholic Club, the old one having been destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
Kelly, who when he first visited Breezy Point in March 2013, was so moved by the community’s response in the aftermath of the storm that had wreacked havoc on the area – over 100 homes were destroyed by fires and many more suffered water damage – that he promised to help rebuild the club with funds from the Kelly Cares Foundation, which supports initiatives in health, education and community.
“We are so pleased that we could help in just this small way,” said the coach, who was joined by his wife Paqui in the ribbon-cutting for the center, which has served as the heart of this largely Irish American community since 1922.
Those in attendance ranged from small children wearing Ireland shirts, to long time residents and Notre Dame fans Jim McGuire and his wife, whose home the coach had visited on his first tour of Breezy.
Notre Dame's head football coach Brian Kelly (center) and his wife Paqui, cut the ribbon on the new REC center in Breezy Point, Queens in New York, April 22nd 2014. Photo: Peter Foley.“When we came here to Breezy Point last year, we saw that there was a need here and that was to bring a small piece of that community back,” the coach said. He described the Breezy Point community as a “great team.”
“As a football coach, what I love about great teams is that they come together in times of adversity. So you have a great team. This community is incredible, the people of Breezy Point came together at tough times.”
He said, “[Helping to rebuild the club] was a small way for us to give you a place to come together and celebrate, whether it’s for a First Communion, or the opportunity to share in a wedding, or to watch a Notre Dame football game.”
The mention of Notre Dame brought cheers from the crowd.
After the ceremony, the assembled enjoyed sandwiches and drinks from the brand new bar, yet to be varnished. The coach, who is from the Boston area originally, mingled generously with the crowd, chatting and posing for pictures. He seemed genuinely happy and pleased to be there.
Pat Mullee, who used to coach in Marine Park for an organization called the Brooklyn Hurricanes, was on hand to celebrate the generosity of the coach and his wife. “It’s a grand thing they did,” he said, describing the club as a hub where everybody gets together for family parties, communions and sports events.
Coach Kelly (center) shakes hands with Pat Mullee (center right) in the new Catholic Club after the ribbon cutting ceremony on April 22. Photo: Peter Foley.