Executive Director, Bob McGuire speaks with Newsday reporter Laura Albanese near the collage of photos and letters from dignitaries commemorating Muhammad Ali’s visit to CP Nassau in June 1996.
On June 20, 1996, CP Nassau bestowed the Champion of Courage Award to Muhammad Ali at a dinner ceremony held at Leonard’s of Great Neck. Dick Schaap, the ABC News Sports Correspondent served as the Master of Ceremonies. The Honorary Chairmen of the event were the Honorable George Pataki, the Governor of New York State and Nassau County Executive, Thomas Gulotta and Floyd Patterson, the Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission.
Tony Galano an Agency Board member was the person who was able to invite Mr. Ali to participate and he served as the Dinner Chairman for this once in a lifetime event that raised funds and great awareness for CP Nassau. At the time, Sidney Schwartz was President of the Board and Gerry Rudnet was the Executive Director and Bob McGuire was an Assistant Executive Director.
The day before, June 19 was a magical day at the CP Center and now one for the history books. Muhammad Ali graced our Agency halls and classrooms and offices. He spent time with all our school students and all of our adult program participants. He hugged people, did some play boxing, hand shaking and just was a beacon of love and friendship to one and all. He spent the entire day; even though he was tired as a result of his Parkinson’s, he kept going with his cheerful bright smile, until he visited every single location in the building. He brought much joy and inspiration to hundreds of people that day. Randy Mitchell, a program participant at the time, and a member of our Thunderbolts Sport Team, and still here at the Agency working part-time in our Rehab Tech area, got to spend time sparring with the Great Ali. There are numerous photographs of their moments together on display in a large collage near the main lobby of our building. Randy commented on 6/6/2016 that he “was truly inspired by Ali and meeting him is something that will remain with him always.” Tricia Pikul, a youngster at the time of the visit, now a participant in our Adult Program commented, “He was such a nice guy and he hugged me during his visit.” Martin Gagliano has a beautiful photo of himself in a bear hug with Ali, said “I loved meeting him.” On June 6th a reporter from Newsday visited the Agency and spoke with about 20 program participants and staff members who had the great opportunity to meet Ali during his visit.