The 15th annual Catholic Education dinner will be held tonight, Jan. 29, at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. The 2015 dinner will mark Bishop Richard Malone's third year celebrating Catholic schools in the Diocese of Buffalo. Nearly 1,200 guests are expected to attend.
According to Richard C. Suchan, executive director of The Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, this year's dinner is undergoing a branding face-lift. "Formerly known as the 'Making a Difference Dinner,' the 2015 event will officially debut as 'GALA 22:6'," said Suchan. "The genesis of the new dinner title is rooted in Proverbs 22:6 - 'Train up children in a way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it,' - which references the importance of educational formation in the lives of our young children."
The dinner is the Foundation's largest annual fundraiser for Catholic education. Proceeds will be used to fund needs-based tuition assistance for students attending Catholic elementary schools throughout the eight counties of Western New York. To date, $140,000 has been raised from this event.
For the 2014-2015 school year, nearly 1,730 students, both Catholic and non-Catholic alike, are attending Catholic schools through this Diocesan scholarship assistance effort, with an average grant of $1,100. Last year's dinner raised approximately 35 percent of these funds. While average Catholic school tuition costs have increased by 7 percent, family income as decreased by 7.7 percent. There are currently hundreds of children on the waiting list for financial assistance.
Chris and Jill Marks will serve as the chair couple of this year's dinner. Jill and Chris live in Orchard Park and have three children, Philip, Maddie and Teddy. Chris is a partner at Jensen, Marks and Langer, and Jill teaches part-time at Nativity Miguel. Eugene and Pia O'Connor are the vice chair couple.
"We ask the Western New York community to join us again this year to celebrate our schools - the principals, the teachers, the staff and certainly the students - as they put their best foot forward to strengthen our youth, our Church and our faith," said Chris and Jill Marks. "This event is an evening where we put the value and mission of the dinner, and the students who benefit from the generosity of our many supporters, first and foremost.
"The tuition assistance granted to families across Western New York has opened doors to a high quality, faith-based education for young children throughout the diocese. Without this assistance, many deserving children would not be in our schools, would not be learning in a safe, nurturing environment, and would not have an opportunity to receive a strong grounding in faith and community," said the Marks'.
The event will begin with a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:45 p.m. and a closing prayer at 8:45 p.m.
Catholic Health is the presenting sponsor and Maid of the Mist is the event sponsor. Platinum sponsors are Buffalo Dental Group, Christopher and Jill Marks, CCS Fundraising, Diocese of Buffalo-Chancery, D'Youville College, Lawley Insurance, Richard C. and Karen E. Penfold, Tom and Jean Comer of Restonic Mattress, Russell J. Salvatore and John and Betsy Sullivan. Tribute sponsors are Buffalo Truck Center, Pratt Collard Advisory Partners, LLC and UNYTS.