Salesianum School isn’t going to let the coronavirus pandemic prevent it from hosting one of its most anticipated annual events. The sports banquet, which honors senior athletes, is scheduled for this evening at 8 p.m. and features some of the school’s best-known alumni.
Instead of a large gathering inside the school’s gymnasium, the athletes and their families will gather at home and tune in to a video stream. It’s not ideal, but Father Christian Beretta, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales and principal of Salesianum, is anticipating a great event.
“I’ve gone from being really excited about this year’s banquet because we have a great senior class … to being heartbroken about the fact that we are not going to be able to have it, to now being excited again knowing it’s not going to be the same, but trying to take advantage of some things that COVID has allowed us to do,” he said.
One of those is the ability for extended family to be able to be part of the banquet. It also has allowed alumni to participate from anywhere in the country, and they have responded. Speakers include Ryan Kern (Class of 2015), the current starting lacrosse goalkeeper for the Naval Academy, and Donte DiVincenzo (2015) of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. Alumni Ben Lundgaard, Troy Reeder and Brian O’Neill, all of whom graduated in 2014, and Andrew Hally, from the Class of 2016, will offer special messages.
“We have people who are going to be making contributions from all over the country, and we’re pretty excited about that,” Father Beretta said.
Lundgaard is a goalkeeper with Atlanta United 2, a professional soccer club. Reeder and O’Neill both play in the National Football League with the Los Angeles Rams and Minnesota Vikings, respectively. Hally is a member of the track and cross country teams at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he will graduate on May 18.
Individual Salesianum teams will meet virtually at 7:30, then the entire community will gather at 8 p.m. The event will feature a mix of live and recorded events.
Father Beretta said the alumni were thrilled to be asked to contribute and were not afraid to reach out to him with questions about this year’s senior class.
“They like to do well when they’re up in front of people,” Father Beretta said. “What really touched me was their concern for the athletes right now, especially the spring athletes who lost their season. It was something I was just really proud of.”
The priest has seen the recorded messages, and while he didn’t want to reveal the specifics, he said the main point is that the product on the field is not as important as the connections the players made along the way. The alumni all had their own banquets and know how much it means to all of the athletes, from the all-staters to the last guy off the bench.
“They wanted the guys to know that it might not be ending the way they had imagined, but they’re still part of something special.”
“They wanted the guys to know that it might not be ending the way they had imagined, but they’re still part of something special,” he said.
Father Beretta said his message to the athletes is about the role of athletics in their education. Everyone likes hanging state championship banners, but the real value in sports lies in their ability to help develop a person, particularly in a difficult situation like the current one.
“It’s to prepare you for the necessary teamwork, hard work and perseverance and grit that you’re going to need in life. They’re already finding that out. This is a real test of character and endurance.”