The fifth annual Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) Hall of Fame ceremony recognized 10 deserving individuals who dedicated their lives to youth sports in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
The event was held at the Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston, June 1, and honored individuals who have made significant contributions to CYO as a player, coach, clergy member, coordinator, official, parish representative, athletic director or other member of the community.
The award ceremony followed Mass in the chapel celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop James Massa.
St. Columba, Marine Park, and Our Lady of Lourdes, Queens Village, each won the Kevin Mahoney Sportsmanship Award; Karsheem Robinson received the Bobby Cummings Memorial Award; and eighth graders Chase Robinson from Our Lady of Lourdes and Alexa Boller from St. Adalbert, Elmhurst, won the Carol O’Connell Aim High Scholarship Award through the CYO Essay Contest. Robinson and Boller each received a $1,000 scholarship for high school – Robinson to Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood, and Boller to Msgr. McClancy H.S., East Elmhurst.
The following inductees make up this year’s CYO Hall of Fame class:
Msgr. John Brown, inducted posthumously, was ordained a priest in 1983. In all of his stops as pastor, his parishes had an organized CYO program. He notably served as pastor of St. Francis de Sales, Belle Harbor, and played an instrumental role in the parish’s relief efforts following Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
When he arrived at St. Thomas Aquinas, Flatlands, Msgr. Brown helped bring back the boys’ version of the Msgr. King Basketball Tournament. The girls’ version is now named in his honor.
He died on March 3, 2017. His legacy with CYO will continue in the form of the Msgr. John Brown Memorial CYO Role Model Award, won this year by basketball coach Dave Ostrowski from St. Columba.
Tony Colletti got his start in CYO as a baseball player at Our Lady of Hope, Middle Village, in the 1960s. He later served on the parish’s athletic board as baseball director for 15 years, parish athletic representative, vice president and president for the past five years.
He has coached boys’ and girls’ basketball for 33 seasons and girls’ softball for 29 seasons. In total, he has coached more than 400 children in over 1,600 CYO games – each one starting with a Hail Mary.
Gary Evans was a standout baseball and basketball player at St. Mary’s Winfield, Woodside, in the mid-1960s. Several years later, he began coaching both sports at the parish, and to this day, he is still coaching hoops.
Evans continued playing CYO baseball and basketball all the way through 1993, back when CYO had a Major division for adults. He also spent time as a professional paddleball player in New York City.
In addition to coaching, Evans served as a CYO basketball referee and baseball umpire for over 10 years. In the early 1980s, he received the Bishop Mugavero Award for his dedicated service.
Gerard Lanci went from concerned parent to true pillar in the CYO sports history of St. Margaret, Middle Village. He first implemented an instructional basketball program at the parish and soon began a coaching career including nine years of softball and nearly 20 years of boys’ basketball.
Lanci also took on the role of boys’ basketball athletic director. Through his work on the St. Margaret’s athletic board, the parish was able to raise funds for a new gym floor, scoreboards, backboards, portable baskets and new bleachers – making the gym a top destination for CYO playoff games.
Mary and Alex Leong have dedicated 20 years of service to CYO. Mary became an assistant coach for the TRI-M girls’ swim team at Our Lady of Mercy, Forest Hills, in 1998. She soon became head coach in 2000, with Alex serving as an assistant coach and team manager.
In 2005, the duo decided to start a boys’ swim team at the parish. Their teams have achieved 12 diocesan swimming championships. The program trains over 200 swimmers of all skill levels each year.
Brother Edward Shields, F.S.C., served at St. Gabriel Elementary School, East Elmhurst, for more than 38 years, with more than 25 of those as principal. In his early days there, he assisted the CYO track program, and in 1980, he became CYO moderator.
Brother Edward also served in vocation ministry at La Salle Academy in Manhattan, and currently serves as campus minister at St. Raymond’s H.S., the Bronx.
Warren Ring, inducted posthumously, began his service to CYO at Holy Innocents, Flatbush. He coached at many levels in track, swimming, basketball and baseball from 1965 to 1979. He also served as CYO swimming director during his tenure with the organization.
He was also a highly regarded track and field official. His specialty was working to ensure the athletes were organized and prepared to get to the starting line on time. He notably served as chief clerk at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Ring was inducted into the USATF Officials Hall of Fame in 2009. He died in December 2014.
Sam Romanzo volunteered as a coach and instructor at St. Robert Bellarmine, Bayside, instructional basketball clinic for 11 years. He eventually became the clinic’s director and helped lead the growth of the parish’s basketball program.
He later coached girls’ basketball and was named the parish’s basketball athletic director in 1998. In 2001, he became parish athletic representative and oversaw the renovation of the parish gym.
Romanzo then coached boys’ basketball while still continuing as parish athletic representative to this day. He has also served on the diocesan basketball rules committee and has helped organize a CYO Mass at St. Robert Bellarmine for Queens Deanery No. 5.
Fred Sporrer played CYO sports at St. Matthias, Ridgewood, starting in 1966. He then coached at the parish from 1974 to 1989, served as basketball athletic director from 1980 to 1989 and then as parish athletic representative from 1985 to 1989. Under his direction, the parish sports program grew from three teams to nearly 20.
Sporrer was also a CYO basketball referee for over 30 years from 1976 to 2008. Together with his wife Jean, they founded FJ Assigning, which assigns sports officials to numerous leagues throughout the City.
From 2008 to 2016, Sporrer served as a CYO sports coordinator. He retired in 2016 and lives with his wife in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Tom Usischon started his CYO career as a batboy and basketball scorekeeper for his father’s teams at St. Vincent de Paul, Williamsburg. He then played basketball and baseball for the parish from 1969 to 1975. When he graduated college, he took over intermediate boys’ coaching duties.
He later coached girls’ basketball at Our Lady of Lourdes, Queens Village, and baseball and basketball at St. Gregory the Great, Bellerose. Usischon also served as a CYO basketball referee for 33 years and spent time as a baseball and soccer official.
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