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O’Hara receives $1 million donation to update school’s athletic fields


TONAWANDA — Cardinal O’Hara High School is rejoicing at the news that a 1972 graduate is donating a record-breaking $1 million to be used exclusively to update the school’s athletic fields.

Renee Orr, Cardinal O’Hara’s director of advancement, said his only requirement is that the gift remain anonymous.

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” Orr said about the phone call. “This was my best day at work, ever.”

The project will be done in three phases. The first will be work on the football and soccer field with new sod, goal posts, and irrigation and drainage system updates.

Then, the baseball and softball fields will that get new fenced dugouts, chain link backstops, new clay infield and sod outfield surfaces and a new irrigation system.

Finally, the existing track will have a new six lane synthetic track, new bleachers and press box as well as a new scoreboard.

Athletic director Earl Schunk expressed his enthusiasm as the new work will result in having all home sporting events at O’Hara.

“The fact that we can host games right here is terrific. It’ll be a gorgeous setup. Also, we hope our new facilities will attract students,” he said.

O’Hara will be using Wendel as project leader. The school hopes all work will be completed for the 2023-24 academic year. Officials are optimistic the baseball and softball fields could be completed in time for the teams to squeak in at least one game this spring.

Principal Joleen Dimitroff said the donation has brought more positive energy to campus, and the school’s latest donation shows its alumni can be more than willing to give back.

“We’re very excited,” she said. “There’s always been a strong sense of pride at O’Hara. This new chapter in our history is such great news and hopefully will inspire other alumni and our friends to consider the future of Cardinal O’Hara. The school has always been committed to family, where we help each other.”