By Tiffany Williams –
Saturday night in the Canal District in Worcester started with the annual Christmas tree lighting in Kelly Square, and then the Inaugural “WooSox Foundation Honors,” a gala at Polar Park.
The event featuring Red Sox Hall of Famer Joe Castiglione, recognized four local honorees in the fields of education, social justice, conquering cancer, and diamond sports. The four pillars of the WooSox Foundation.
Castiglione opened the event welcoming everyone to the inaugural “WooSox foundation honors,” and said “Tonight, we are here to thank all of you for helping us launch the WooSox Foundation.” He also said, “We hope it will become a warm winter tradition here in the heart of the commonwealth.”
The first Pillar the WooSox Foundation stands upon is education and the centerpiece of their education initiatives is a program which provides college scholarships of $10,000 each to four Worcester Public Schools eighth graders each year. The WooSox said “Children who may face the dangerous temptations of adolescent life must see that the dream of college is valid and funded.”
The WooSox recognized the Class of 2021 WooSox Scholars which included Dalton Le from South High School; Helene Sanchez-Navidad from Claremont Academy; Jakayla Edmond from Doherty High School; and Kasie Vuong from Burncoat High School. The Class of 2022 WooSox Scholars recognized included Marenity Gonzalez-Giza a freshman at North High School; Erika Gutierrez a freshman at South High School; Sincere Politano a freshman at University Park Campus School; and Farzana Darwishi a freshman from Wachusett Regional High School.
Receiving the “WooSox foundation honors” for education was Maureen Binienda, Interim Superintendent at Quaboag Regional School District and former Superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools who the WooSox say “Asserted that all Worcester Public School 8th graders—more than 1,800—would apply to be WooSox scholars.”
Castiglione talked about other areas of focus on education in the community saying, “The WooSox scholars program may be the centerpiece of the WooSox foundation’s emphasis on education, but there are other efforts in education as well. The Worcester public library now has a WooSox Foundation book nook of baseball literature. We thank Chrissy Murray and Jason Homer for their partnership; The foundation now has a WooSox mentors program; we thank big brothers and big sisters for their partnership—and the wonderful folks at gates lane school.”
Before shifting gears to social justice, Castiglione welcomed Worcester’s new superintendent of schools, Rachel Monarrez and asked everyone to “Give a warm winter Worcester welcome to Dr. Rachel Monarrez!”
The second pillar of the WooSox Foundation is social justice.and Castiglione talked about programs “From food for the hungry in partnership with Congressman Jim McGovern to haircuts for those looking to return to the workplace in partnership with Net of Compassion; from swimming lessons for kids and police officers in our “WooSox familia” program in memory of Manny Familia, to our enduring care for our friends and families of fallen firefighters. And of course, it was on this date 23 years ago that we lost the Worcester 6.”
On the windows in the DCU Club at Polar Park, attendees could see the jerseys with the names of the six Worcester firefighters who were killed just a few blocks away in the cold storage fire or Box 5-1438. Castiglione called the jerseys “A reminder that they and the three who have perished since are always with us. That’s why the WooSox retired the number 6 before they had even played a game, and why we welcome 9 friends and family of fallen firefighters at every ballgame.”
Castiglione called “Social justice a passion of the WooSox Foundation.” He said “The WooSox Foundation’s efforts took a giant leap when Bank of America funded the WooSox Care-A-Van, an elaborate recreational vehicle.”
Receiving the “WooSox foundation honors” for social justice was Tim Garvin who Castiglione called the “4-1-1 and the 9-1-1 of community partnerships,” and “A remarkable Worcester hero.”
The third pillar of the WooSox Foundation is conquering cancer and Castiglione said “When you think of families who’ve been dealt an unfair hand, your heart breaks when you meet those affected by childhood cancer. The Jimmy Fund, of course, has been near and dear to my heart for these past 40 years, and who is Dana-Farber’s Chairman of the Jimmy Fund? That’s right, our own Larry Lucchino.” He continued “There was no question that a pillar of the WooSox foundation was going to be the effort to conquer cancer, particularly in children. all of us in the Red Sox family try to help them “through the storm.”
Castiglione talked about how the WooSox Foundation partners with Why Me & Sherry’s house who works with Make-A-Wish, the Tomorrow Fund at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, and the Jimmy Fund.
Castiglione said “But the pillar of the medical community in Worcester is one of the most respected institutions in New England and the country and my son bears testament to the fabulous education he received when he earned his doctorate in medicine right here.
Receiving the “WooSox foundation honors” for conquering cancer was Dr. Peter Newberger. “I couldn’t be more proud to recognize a leading pediatric oncologist at our own UMass Memorial Hospital, who is performing the research and searching for cures, every single day,” Castiglione said.
The fourth and final pillar of the WooSox Foundation is diamond sports and Joe Castiglione along with Alex Richardson the director of Baseball and game Day operations highlighted the the work that the WooSox does in the community from baseball clinics in partnership with WooSox players and coaches, to the “Tyler’s Teammates Program,” with the family of tyler trudell and Tlk Sports, to the junior WooSox, led by Mike Novia. Joe Castiglione said “One of the great pleasures of a career in baseball is helping children foster dreams of baseballland.” In a video titled “Dreaming of Baseballland” attendees got to see some of the work of Rich Gedman, WooSox hitting coach, and Red Sox hall of famer. Castiglione called Gedman “A gentleman as he is a baseball hero.”
Rich Gedman, who is the inaugural “WooSox foundation diamond sports honoree” is a native of Worcester and grew up just a few blocks from Polar Park. Gedman led St. Peter-Marian, a Catholic high school in Worcester, to a state baseball championship in 1977. Gedman’s childhood dream was to play Major League Baseball and he did just that, playing 1980-1990 for the Boston Red Sox as a catcher. He also played for the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals.
After receiving his award from Joe Castiglione and Alex Richardson, Castiglione told Gedman “By the way, rich, the annual WooSox Foundation Golf Tournament presented by Hanover Insurance Group will now be named in your honor.” Castiglione also told Gedman, “You represent the dreams of every child born in this city.”
One final award, a surprise, the WooSox Foundation’s Employee Community Service Award was awarded to Joe Bradlee, Vice President/Community and Player Relations.
“I’m not sure how all of my colleagues were able to keep this award a surprise from me, but they certainly did,” said Vice President of Community & Player Relations Joe Bradlee. “I’m grateful to all of our Front Office Staff members who I get to call my teammates, and I know we all look forward to continuing to make an impact in Worcester for years to come.”
After the dinner and awards, attendees were invited to participate in a live auction and then were invited to the WooSox Clubhouse, which was transformed into a holiday cocktail lounge with an open bar. Former Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Keith Foulke, who earned the final out of the 2004 World Series, joined attendees in the clubhouse with the 2004 World Series trophy. Attendees were also able to take some swings in the batting cage used by WooSox players in season.