Athletes Pay It Forward At Annual Date Auction

SAAC Co-Chairs Gina Righini and Jillian Caffrey

By Carly Grimaudo
Special to

Athletics thrive on outside support. Whether its fans cheering for their favorite athletes in the stands during competition or alumni funding the wonderful programs they once were a part of, the support they receive largely drives the success they find.  

It’s not just a one way street though. Often times throughout the year athletic teams make sure to give back to the surrounding community that stands behind them. Through the help of SAAC, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, not only do single teams volunteer and donate to the Worcester community, but the entire student-athlete body mobilizes together to be men and women for others.  

At the annual SAAC Date Auction, which was held on Thursday, April 3, both the crowd and the money raised were bigger than ever, and that’s with much thanks to senior field hockey player Jillian Caffrey (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.) and junior women’s soccer player Gina Righini (Salem, N.H.), co-chairs of SAAC. The Date Auction brings together athletes, as well as non-athletes, to bid on a selected member from each athletic team, with the highest bidder receiving a gift certificate to one of Worcester’s local restaurants, to which they’ll take the athlete on a date.  

This year however, the winning bidders and their lucky dates weren’t the only ones who got a nice meal out of the evening. All the proceeds raised at the Date Auction went to the St. John’s Food for the Poor Program, an organization based out of St. John’s Church in Worcester that provides hot meals to the city’s poor and homeless. The immense support of the event from the student-athlete body, translated into a huge crowd and a fun-filled evening, but most importantly, $3,000 raised for the selected organization, which would not have been possible without the hard work of Caffrey and Righini who went above and beyond to assure the event’s success.  

“Gina and Jill exceeded all expectations with the amount of work and dedication that they put into the date auction,” said Associate Director of Athletics and SAAC Advisor Ann Zelesky. “It was a tremendous success with the largest crowd ever, I’m going to guess in the vicinity of 450 students packing the room for a fun-filled night and raising the $3,000 for the St. John’s Food for the Poor, which is a cause near and dear to me. I was thoroughly impressed with their leadership and the end result was a smashing success.” 

While spectators of the Date Auction could see Caffrey and Righini’s work in action as they ran the event, from welcoming guests with a introductory video to organizing donations, the work they did behind the scenes in preparation was also crucial. “The SAAC committee put in a lot of hard work to make the Date Auction a success and it wouldn't have been possible without the preparation that Gina put in with contacting restaurants, creating an awesome social media page and making a movie clip for the event,” said Caffrey. 

It was clear all their preparation and dedication paid off when over 400 student-athletes entered the Holy Cross Ballroom to watch their fellow athletes be auctioned off and to be entertained by head coach of the baseball team, Greg DiCenzo, who was back by popular demand as the event’s MC. “This year's Date Auction turned out to be such an exciting event, definitely exceeding expectations,” said Righini. “From the attendance of over 400 student-athletes coupled with the energy and enthusiasm from the host, baseball coach Greg DiCenzo, this event thrived for the full two hours. It was really awesome to see how engaged the crowd was and in the end, we were able to raise a significant amount of money for a great cause." 

As Zelesky, Caffrey, Righini and DiCenzo agree, and as was evident by the 2014 SAAC Date Auction, when Holy Cross athletes unify around a great cause, success is inevitable. “Any time that Holy Cross athletes can get together in such large numbers like that, just shows how great this place is, how great of an athletic department we have and how special of a school it is to attend and participate as a Division I athlete,” said DiCenzo. “Anytime you can get that many students in one venue, in one arena and in one area together, it just exemplifies who we are as an athletic department.”

While the event may have passed, the work of Caffrey and Righini is not done yet. Later this week they’ll deliver the $3,000 check to the St. John’s Food for the Poor Program that will aid in funding the newly expanded and renovated food pantry at Worcester’s St. John’s Church, thanking the Worcester community for all of its support on behalf of Holy Cross Athletics.