By Kristen Fox / SUN Staff Writer
SUN photo(s) Photos Courtesy Rudyintl.com
Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger to speak at benefit dinner for St. Peter’s School
When the members of the fundraising committee at St. Peter’s School were brainstorming possible speakers for the school’s first annual benefit dinner, they didn’t want just any high profile person. They wanted someone who would bring an inspirational message. When a member threw out Daniel Ruettiger’s name, the committee knew it had a perfect match. “We wanted a speaker representing St. Peter’s who had a positive message attached to their name,” said Judy Hauck, principal of St. Peter’s School. “Rudy Ruettiger is this kind of person. His whole theme is ‘Don’t give up.’ This is what we want to promote.”
Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, whose personal story of triumph at the University of Notre Dame inspired the critically acclaimed 1993 film Rudy, will speak on Wednesday, Feb. 4 at Hart’s Hill Inn in Whitesboro during St. Peter’s School’s First Annual Benefit Dinner. Ruettiger, the son of an oil refinery worker and the third of 14 children, carved his name into history books as perhaps the most famous graduate of the University of Notre Dame. It took years of fierce determination for him to overcome obstacles and criticisms, yet Ruettiger achieved his first dream –– to attend Notre Dame and play football for the Fighting Irish. In the last 27 seconds of his only play in the only game of his college football career, Ruettiger sacked the opposing quarterback as fans cheered “Rudy! Rudy!” He is the only player in the school’s history to be carried off the field on his teammates’ shoulders.
In 1993, TRISTAR Productions immortalized his life story with the blockbuster film, Rudy. Written and produced by Angelo Pizzo and David Anspaugh, the film received “Two Thumbs Up” from Siskel and Ebert and continues to inspire millions. Today, Ruettiger is a highly sought-after motivational speaker who entertains audiences worldwide with a captivating personality and a heartfelt “Yes I Can” message. He has shared the speaking platform with George and Barbara Bush, Peter Lowe, Joe Montana, Colin Powell and Christopher Reeve. Ruettiger has spoken to audiences of 200 to 20,000 people. He has also co-authored several books, produced a cassette series and established the Rudy Foundation, which develops and supports children’s programs around the world. Jim Jones, a chairperson of the fundraising committee at St. Peter’s School, is thrilled to have Ruettiger speak. He believes that Ruettiger’s inspirational message ties into the mission of St. Peter’s School. “The perseverance and passion Daniel had for his dream correlates with the passion we have for Catholic education,” said Jones. “Our dream is to keep St. Peter’s School alive and flourishing.” “Rudy shows us that when you find something that you believe in, work hard at it and do not give up. He is a person that the children can look up to,” Hauck added.
The first annual benefit dinner is part of an innovative fundraising campaign for St. Peter’s School, whose enrollment is 180 students in pre-k through sixth grade. The fundraising committee wanted to do something unique and exciting to mark the event. Inviting Ruettiger to speak was part of a “thinking outside of the box” mindset, explained Dave Carroll, a member of the fundraising committee at St. Peter’s School. “This is a new kind of fundraiser for St. Peter’s,” Carroll said. “We have never tried anything like this before, but everyone is behind it.”
In addition to raising money for St. Peter’s School, Ruettiger’s speech will provide a quality event for the entire community, Jones said. To gear up for the event, the community was invited to attend a free screening of the movie Rudy on Jan. 24 at the Stanley Theatre in Utica, courtesy of Adelphia Communications, who has helped to sponsor the benefit dinner. Several other organizations and businesses have also supported the event, said Hauck. She thanked Adelphia Communications, Clear Channel, NBT Banks, G & I Homes and BBT Fattoria, LLC specifically for their generosity. “There has been an outpouring of support from the community. We are so in awe that so many people have come forward to help out,” said Hauck. “The whole community is very excited. It will be a wonderful evening,” Carroll said.
The public is welcome to hear Ruettiger relate his unique and inspiring story and support St. Peter’s School. The evening will begin with a reception from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., followed by dinner. Tickets are $75 each. Call (315) 724-4708 for more information.