Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Patriots' Mike Vrabel to Speak at St. Mary's Fund Dinner

September 17, 2008

FALL RIVER — New England Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel will be the featured speaker at the annual St. Mary’s Education Fund Fall Dinner set for Tuesday, October 14, at White’s of Westport.

Proceeds from the evening support the St. Mary’s Education Fund, which provides need-based scholarships to students at Catholic elementary and middle schools in the Fall River diocese.

While Patriots fans are well aware of Vrabel’s solid contributions to their team over the years, what’s likely less-known is his commitment to tackling the problem of illiteracy.

He is a co-founded of what is called the 2nd & 7 Foundation, whose purpose is to promote literacy with a particular focus on influencing children to read.

Vrabel also has a special interest in Catholic education in the Fall River diocese: his two sons attend a Catholic elementary school here while the Vrabel family resides in the diocese during football season. The children complete their school year in a Catholic school in Ohio during the off-season.

He started his 2nd & 7 Foundation with two teammates from his Ohio State University football days. The three former Buckeyes, who had done community service work while in school, wanted to continue to do something for the central Ohio area where they remained after graduation.

With that impetus, they launched the 2nd & 7 Foundation to encourage children to read and to help them understand how important reading skills are to a successful future.

At the heart of the foundation is its “Tackle Illiteracy” program which sends Vrabel or one of the other co-founders out weekly with various student-athletes from Ohio State University to visit second grade classes in elementary schools in and around the city of Columbus. There, they read to the class, discuss the importance of reading, and present each student with a book to take home and read.

The 2nd & 7 Foundation Web site reports that it has donated over 50,000 books and read to some 10,000 students.

Vrabel and his partners are now working to expand the reach of their foundation through the financing of interactive learning centers in schools, where children can enjoy books, websites and educational video games.

Diocesan Development Director Mike Donly remembers in his conversation with Vrabel on the Fall Dinner, Vrabel noting that he, as somebody who lives in the diocese, is very willing to take part and that he was committed to doing whatever he could to help children.

A native of Akron, Ohio, Vrabel graduated from Walsh Jesuit High School in nearby Cuyahoga Falls, before going to Ohio State where he was a pre-med major and a standout defensive end.

Highly regarded in Patriots Nation, Vrabel became part of the team in 2001 after four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has been a major force in the Patriots defense and was a member of three of their Super Bowl winning teams.

The Fall Dinner will begin with a 5:30 p.m. reception and will include, in addition to Vrabel’s talk, a video snapshot of Catholic schools, student entertainment, and a delicious multi-course meal.

It is one of only two yearly fund-raising events for the St. Mary’s Education Fund, which within the current school year alone is distributing over $660,000 in partial tuition aid to more than 700 students.

Fall Dinner chair E. Dennis Kelly and committees in four regions of the Fall River diocese are taking reservations from businesses and individuals who want to host a table or purchase a ticket to support the St. Mary’s Education Fund.

Anyone interested in supporting the Fall Dinner or obtaining more information on the St. Mary’s Education Fund, should contact the Diocesan Development Office at 508-675-1311.

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