Father Baker campaign receives $200,000 challenge gift

by KIMBERLEE SABSHIN
Mon, Nov 13th 2017 09:00 am
Staff Reporter
John (from left) and Betsy Sullivan, Msgr. Paul J. E. Burkard, and Karen and Dick Penfold, stand in the Father Baker Museum at Our Lady of Victory Basilica. The couples came together to announce The Sullivan and Penfold $200,000 Challenge Gift, which will benefit the Capital Campaign for Father Baker's. (Dan Cappellazzo/Staff Photographer) 
John (from left) and Betsy Sullivan, Msgr. Paul J. E. Burkard, and Karen and Dick Penfold, stand in the Father Baker Museum at Our Lady of Victory Basilica. The couples came together to announce The Sullivan and Penfold $200,000 Challenge Gift, which will benefit the Capital Campaign for Father Baker's. (Dan Cappellazzo/Staff Photographer) 

A recent family collaboration resulted in $200,000 to benefit Our Lady of Victory Organizations via their ongoing capital campaign. The campaign, entitled The Campaign for "Father Baker's" ­- Continuing His Legacy of Caring, which started in 2012, has now reached $11.5 million of its $12 million goal to enrich the lives of people in the Western New York area. The capital campaign runs until Dec. 31.

Karen and Richard Penfold, honorary co-chairs of the capital campaign, donated $100,000 toward this goal in September, while John and Betsy Sullivan, both of whom were touched by OLV as John was a Baker Boy, gave the other $100,000. Together, the donation is the "Sullivan and Penfold $200,000 Challenge Gift," as the Penfolds are the mother- and father-in-law of John Sullivan.

"We're so close to the finish line, I think that was really it. We wanted to help OLV get across the finish line. If we could give a little bit more and hopefully inspire others to match, why wouldn't we?" John Sullivan said.

Msgr. Paul J.E. Burkard, pastor of Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica and president of OLV Institutions, met with the Penfolds and the Sullivans to discuss the campaign. They agreed that a challenge gift could help the campaign meet its goal.

This is the second time both couples have given to the campaign. Funds raised benefit the Basilica and parish, Our Lady of Victory Homes of Charity, and Baker Victory Services.

"Baker Victory Services is our social work program. The mission of that organization is vulnerable children. We have, on any given day, 4,000 children or families in our care in various programs. We also have a small portion of our BVS programs for adults," Msgr. Burkard said. "We have psychiatric care, residential care, educational and medical services, and a large population of handicapped children."

The Homes of Charity is a fundraising operation, which works with supporters and benefactors throughout the country. "We are also a full-fledged parish with about 3,200 households. In addition, the basilica receives 30-40,000 visitors and pilgrims a year from all over the world," Msgr. Burkard added.

Karen Penfold, who called the capital campaign a more than "four-and-a-half year project," emphasized their long family history with OLV. Sullivan was adopted at 6 months of age in 1970 out of OLV, and he was raised as a middle-class son of a high school math teacher and a social worker in the area.

"I didn't really think much about my OLV association and the adoption until later in my life. My grandfather was the chief of surgery at Our Lady of Victory Hospital, and his house was on McKinley Parkway in the shadow of the dome," Sullivan said. "But as I got older, they talked more about my story."

Sullivan's great-grandfather, Aloysius Sullivan, was also a Baker Boy. He was dropped off at a very young age from Pennsylvania, and Father Baker raised him in the home. "Father Baker saw something in him and sent him to medical school. He raised him, sent him to medical school and he and Father Baker started the hospital," Sullivan said. "It's a pretty amazing story."

Penfold - who grew up in Western New York - remembered visiting Our Lady of Victory Basilica as a young girl with her family, which always included a walk through the orphanage. At the time, the orphanage had large windows, through which cribs and nuns caring for babies were visible.

"Our visit would always end with a treasure from the gift shop that my sister and I loved. I had a notion of Father Baker's, however it was never said that I'd be sent there," she said, referencing the common jab told to misbehaving Western New York children.

While in college, Penfold's first student teaching experience was in Lackawanna. Later in life, her son's graduation from St. Francis High School took place in the basilica. Once her daughter married a Baker Boy, her OLV experience came full circle. When she received a call asking the couple to be honorary co-chairs of the campaign, along with Liz and Ron Jaworski, it was a "huge honor," she said.

"Throughout our lives, my husband and I have always tried to somehow support areas close to our hearts and that includes Father Baker's. We always had requests coming in the mail," Penfold added. "I remember my grandmother and mom sending donations, so it was a family tradition to do something for Father Baker.

"One of my mom's best pieces of advice was to give back to the Church. That's been part of our lives, and I can say the same for Dick's parents," Penfold said. "It wasn't always easy in the beginning, but we always tried to do something. Then, the blessings started coming, and it just seemed like when you give from the heart, blessings just seem to follow."

"I am so thankful that they are involved. Dick and Karen, I've been around them for 20, almost 30 years now. They get things done. When they are involved with a charity, success comes with them," Sullivan said.

Today, Sullivan is a member of the Our Lady of Victory Institutions board of directors. In the past, he had also served on the board of directors for Baker Victory Services.

Since his great-grandfather was one of the first Baker Boys and because he, himself, knew what it was like to once be an orphan with nothing, Sullivan expressed pride in being able to be part of Father Baker's legacy in a large way by giving to OLV.

"I was born with less than nothing in this world. I didn't even have a family," Sullivan commented. "To Our Lady of Victory, I owe my life and all of the blessings that have been bestowed on me and my family as a result."

To support Our Lady of Victory's Capital Campaign, call 716-828-9610 or go to fatherbakers.org.  

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