SWIM Sports Gala & Auction

To Benefit Connecticut Police, Fire, Correction Officers and EMS personnel and their Families Battling Cancer

Thursday, January 23, 2014
Silent Auction: 5:30 p.m. / Dinner: 7:00 p.m.

Anthony’s Ocean View, New Haven, CT (Map)

Click here to view the event slideshow

Three hundred people attended St. Vincent's Medical Center Foundation’s 11th Annual Sports Gala to honor First Responders throughout Connecticut. The proceeds from the event go to St. Vincent’s SWIM Across the Sound to benefit First Responder personnel and their families battling cancer.

Master of Ceremonies, Rich Coppola, Sports Director of FOXCT, set the heartfelt tone as he reminisced about his pride in being the son of a First Responder.

Mookie Wilson, who made history with one of the most memorable plays in baseball in 1986 was the keynote speaker.  Throughout his playing career, he was beloved by fans who enjoyed calling out “Mooo-kie” when he was up at bat. 

Wilson began by saying, “People always ask me how I got my nickname, and the truth is, I don’t know.  A name is what defines you, but your actions are really what define you.  You can call anyone on the street Mookie, but it’s just a name.” 

Wilson went on to say, “While I was training in the minor leagues, all the players looked great to me.  A coach pulled me aside one day.  He said, ‘Mookie, it’s hard to separate yourself from other players.  You have to do something – something special.’  Well I did not understand what that coach meant until much later on. 

I learned that it’s what do you do that makes you stand out, and when people say your name, there is an expectation.  When people say, ‘St. Vincent’s,’ there is an expectation.  When people say, ‘First Responders,’ there is an expectation – an expectation to be more and to give more that has to be supported by.  It’s not your name that makes you special, it’s what you do and what people have grown to expect of you when they hear or say your name.” 

By his actions, Mookie Wilson was special on and off the field. Teammates and colleagues describe him as funny, wise, selfless, generous, a great mentor, and a person who genuinely cares for others.   

A local name that carries a special ring is Felner. Each year, St. Vincent’s Foundation presents the David Felner Caregiver Award at the Sports Gala to a First Responder who has shown outstanding care and compassion for cancer patients.  The award is named in honor of the former Stratford Firefighter who passed away from cancer in 2002. 

This year, St. Vincent’s Foundation surprised David’s parents, Fairfield Fire Chief Richard Felner and his wife Linda, by presenting them with the prestigious award.  The Foundation’s executive director, Lyn McCarthy stated, “Dick and Linda Felner have been at the heart of this event from its inception 11 years ago.  They were inspiring caregivers to their son, and to so many others in the community.  Thanks to Dick and Linda Felner, we at St. Vincent’s SWIM Across the Sound, have been able to provide much needed support and assistance to so many First Responders.  We are sincerely grateful for the legacy they have shared by allowing us to honor their son all these years.”

 The Felners were both honored and humbled by the award.  Chief  Felner stated it never crossed their minds that he and his wife would be chosen, but to be presented an award in memory and in the name of their son carried deep meaning for them.

Numerous First Responders who attended the event stated that the event was particularly inspiring and personal for them.