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Hawks return with a great gift

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Five founding members of the COHS Thanks-A-Million Campaign gather to celebrate their 50 year reunions at the O’Hara Fest which took place at the school July 30. From left, Paul ’70 and Kathryn ’71 Murray, Nancy LaTulip ’71, Joe Nicosia ’71, Shawn ’70 and Janet ’70 Cunningham, Charles and Donna ’71 Matlach. Photo courtesy of Cardinal O’Hara High School

TONAWANDA —With gratitude, the Advancement Office of Cardinal O’Hara High School, along with the board of trustees and administration, announced that the school has received its largest charitable gift in the 60-year history of the school.

An alumnus of the school, who wishes to remain anonymous at this time, has donated $500,000 to COHS. This half-a-million-dollar gift is to establish an endowment fund for scholarships. 

In addition, the school is also announcing the next phase of its latest fundraising campaign.

The Thanks-A-Million Campaign aims to raise an additional $2 million for the school. The first half will come from 100 donors who each commit to $10,000 over five years. Each of those gifts will be matched dollar for dollar by the same alumnus who gifted the half-million endowment fund.

The first 30 spots of the 100 have been filled by various alumni and families. Each of the founding members of the Thanks-A-Million Campaign will be recognized at a Mass and ceremony on Oct. 3 at the school to unveil the campaign’s commemorative plaques.

“We are excited as we embark on a new generation of giving for Cardinal O’Hara. As we are celebrating 60 years of the school in 2021, we thought it was a perfect time to secure the foundation for future generations of students,” said Michael Rizzo ’80, chairmen of the COHS board of trustees. “We are grateful to this alumnus for the generosity shown this past year and to all our alumni who step up to help us reach this campaign goal.”

Cardinal O’Hara High School opened in 1961 and boasts a 900-seat performing arts center, double gym, an art and music wing, all set on 17 acres in the Town of Tonawanda, that allows for football, softball and soccer. Cardinal O’Hara has a diverse population drawn from Niagara Falls, Lockport, the Tonawandas, Buffalo and 12 other school districts.

The 60th anniversary festivities have already begun with O’Harafest Alumni Reunion taking place July 30. There, O’Hara graduates reminisced about their beloved alma mater.

 “This was my family away from home,” said Donna Tripi from the class of 1971.“The priests, the nuns, the teachers were my mentors. I could talk to them. My main memory here is that they were like family to me. I hope we can get more children to come here.”

Carl Tarantino,also from the Class of 1971, recalls the strict discipline the teachers had, and now sees what a positive impact it had on his life.

“They instilled in us what was to be important. We’re here to learn, to be educated. They weren’t going to take a lot of nonsense. It was very focused, they’re disciple towards us,” he said.

Fifty years after graduating, he still remains close to the school by attending career days and explaining to the science students his role as a radiation health official.

As one of two boys who came to O’Hara from public school in 1966, Gary Gates was afraid he would get lost in the crowd of students who already knew each other from their Catholic elementary schools. 

“We knew nobody. We looked around and said, ‘Who are these people?’ while everyone else had a great camaraderie. It took a little while for us to get assimilated into the crowd. Everyone here was so great. They opened up their arms,” he said. “My four years at O’Hara are friends and friends and friends, and yeah, I have an education as well.”

He showed his love for his school by donating the audio/visual equipment he used in his video production company.

The anniversary celebration will continue on Oct. 2, with the school’s Hall of Fame inductions.

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