Viscardi Center to honor Mike Piazza at virtual celebrity sports night

Robert Pelaez
The Viscardi Center will name MLB Hall of Famer Mike Piazza as their 2021 Sportsman of the Year during their Celebrity Sports Night on May 20. (Photo courtesy of the Viscardi Center)

The Viscardi Center will hold its’ 54th annual Celebrity Sports Night virtually on May 20, with a pair of famous New York athletes sending pre-recorded messages.

The center, which educates, employs, and empowers people young and old with disabilities, typically holds the annual event as an evening of dinner and cocktails in which the organization showcased their students’ talents and honored celebrities for their accomplishments.

Past honorees include Gleyber Torres of the Yankees, Clark Gillies of the Islanders, Joe Namath of the Jets, and Jose Reyes of the Mets. This year, former Mets catcher Mike Piazza and former Giants quarterback Eli Manning will be featured in the ceremony, with Piazza being honored as the center’s Sportsman of the Year. 

Piazza spent 16 seasons in Major League Baseball before retiring in 2007. Of those 16 seasons, he spent half with the New York Mets, from 1998-2005. He finished his Hall of Fame career averaging .308, hitting 427 home runs and 1,335 runs batted in.

Additionally, professional surfer and motivational speaker Bethany Hamilton will be honored with the Roy Campanella Award, named after the Hall of Fame baseball player who fractured his vertebrae and compressed his spinal cord in an automobile accident on his way to his Glen Cove home.

Hamilton famously survived a shark attack which resulted in losing her left arm in 2003 before she ultimately returned to professional surfing.

“We are very excited to be able to offer this virtual event, and though we would have preferred to gather in person, we have a truly unique and memorable program planned,” said President and CEO of The Viscardi Center, John D. Kemp, said. “Thanks to all of our very good friends in The Viscardi Center community, including our presenting sponsor Henry Schein Cares, we are really looking forward to a special evening that will help support our mission to educate, employ, and empower the individuals we work with each and every day.”

The center’s K-12 school serves medically fragile and severely disabled children with a graduation and college acceptance rate of 86 percent. The center, located in Albertson, provides after-school athletic programs, transportation, and modern technologies and curriculums designed to give students an accessible but rigorous academic experience.

The other side of the center offers programs to disabled adolescents and adults and school districts looking for transitioning planning services, prevocational work, testing and job placement. The center places roughly 120 people a year in competitive, integrated employment and provides support and advocacy beyond a participant’s tenure at the center.

The educational and employment services the Viscardi Center offers serve 2,000 people a year from all five boroughs of the city, and Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk counties.

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