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Excellence in Catholic education can be seen on WBBZ


Educators and those who support Catholic education received recognition at the 23rd annual diocesan education fundraiser. Highlights from the Jan. 26, luncheon can be seen on “Shooting for the Stars,” which will air Saturday, Jan. 28, at 4 p.m. on WBBZ-TV.

Channel 7 news anchor Taylor Epps (left) and Tim Uhl, secretary of Catholic Education, present Vicky Petricca from St. Christopher School with the Sister Lucille Soccarelli-Fr. John Sturm Making a Difference Award at the Catholic Education luncheon on Jan. 26. (Photo by Nicole Dzimira)

This is the largest fundraiser for Catholic schools. All the proceeds will be used for tuition assistance for families who choose to provide their children with a Catholic education.

The “Shooting for the Stars” hourlong program will highlight all the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Buffalo. Also featured during the broadcast will be witness talks from the honorees, who will speak to what sets a Catholic education apart from all the other options. 

Awards were presented to this year’s Champions of Catholic Education – Charles “Chip” Jones, and Donna and Bill Collins.

Jones was a tremendous supporter of Catholic education in all of Western New York before his tragic July 2022 death.

“His passion for serving others and his deep commitment to the importance of Catholic Education still lives on,” said Nancy Gugino, director of the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

The Collins are long-time supporters of Catholic education as well as the Foundation and co-chairs of the Bishop’s Council of the Laity for 12 years.

The Selfless Giving Award went to Russell J. Salvatore for his support of all of the schools in the diocese, while also recognizing his boundless philanthropy in all of Western New York.

Vicky Petricca from St. Christopher School received the Sister Lucille Soccarelli-Fr. John Sturm Making a Difference Award. This award goes to a teacher each year that exemplifies all the qualities of an educator who truly touches the hearts of students, parents and the entire school community.  

Nancy Gugino, director of the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, and Bishop Michael W. Fisher, listen as Channel 7 news anchor Taylor Epps announces education award recipients. (Photo by Nicole Dzimira)

Two new awards presented this year are the Distinguished Pastor and Distinguished Principal Awards. Father James Ciupek, from Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Orchard Park, received the distinguished Pastor Award, and Karen Rahill from DeSales Catholic School accepted the Distinguished Principal Award.

Students being recognized include Savannah Brooks from SS. Peter & Paul in Hamburg who received the Natalie Mattimore Lewis Kindness Counts Character Award, and Sarah Romanowski from St. Gregory the Great who took home the Tim Russert Scholarship for Creative Writing Award.

Channel 7 weekend anchor Taylor Epps, emceed the luncheon, which also heard from J’Adore Wynn, a third grader at St. Joseph University School in Buffalo, who spoke about her fondness for her school.

“I started there two years ago and I love my school,” she said. “I want to thank my dad. He works so hard so that he can offer me a good education. He walks me to school every day and picks me up every afternoon. He tells me he is not worried for a second while I’m in school because he knows he can count on my teachers, not only to teach me, but also to care for me.”

She then thanked everyone there. “Without you, I could not go to St. Joseph University School.”

The luncheon met its goal of raising $10,000 for emergency tuition for families in need. An anonymous donor matched that goal.

Watch “Shooting for the Stars” here.

Click below to listen to Michael Mroziak’s coverage of the luncheon.


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