Tunes for Tuition

Sept. 30-Oct.6,2004
Tunes for Tuition
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
The NurSING Notes help Raise Money for Guardian Angel Society

This year marks the seventh anniversary of Father Joseph Champlin’s Guardian Angel Society –– a program designed to provide tuition assistance and scholarship awards to underprivileged children so that they may experience and benefit from a Catholic education at Cathedral School. The school operates at an annual deficit of about $400,000 and to date, the Guardian Angel Society has raised more than $1.2 million to help defray the cost of keeping the school open.

“When the Guardian Angel Society first started, we put a lot of money into technology at Cathedral School,” said Father Champlin. “This year, through the benefit of a private donor, we have enhanced the math and technology programs.” Father Champlin said that enrollment is almost at maximum capacity, with 97 students enrolled. With the help of the Guardian Angel Society, many of the students who attend Cathedral School go on to graduate from Bishop Ludden, Bishop Grimes or Christian Brothers Academy. “For the first time, we have had students graduate from a Catholic school and go on to colleges such as Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Syracuse University,” said Father Champlin. “This is a real accomplishment for students who had difficult up-bringings.”

On Wednesday, Oct. 13 from noon to 1:30 p.m., the Guardian Angel Society will hold its fifth annual update and lecture luncheon at the Syracuse University Sheraton. This year’s headliner will be a barbershop quartet with an interesting resume. The four gentlemen are registered nurses in the Syracuse area and are all married to nurses. Father Champlin heard them perform last year at a presentation at Hematology-Oncology Associates. “As you can imagine, this was a very serious audience of people affected in various ways by that disease,” said Father Champlin in his recent newsletter. “Nurse Larry Brennan followed my talk and gave an one-hour lecture on ‘Humor, Harmony and Health.’ It was remarkable how he quickly had everyone in this unique audience smiling, laughing and singing.”

“I love singing barbershop,” said Larry Brennan, M.S., R.N., the lead vocalist of the group. “As a nurse, singing was a stress releaser.” The group, which has been together for 14 years, began their singing career to entertain fellow nurses. “I began writing parodies to old songs and used them to send positive messages to other nurses,” said Brennan. “Our first role is to support nursing and to be able to laugh at some of the challenges we face.” Brennan said that while using humor and song to relieve the stress of fellow nurses, the group realized they weren’t the only ones who needed it. “Humor helps relieve stress in those who are ill and has a therapeutic effect,” said Brennan. Brennan said it is difficult for the quartet to balance their nursing careers with their practice and singing schedules. One way that Brennan works around scheduling conflicts is to have his assistant, Charlie, accompany him to singing engagements. “Charlie is my ventriloquist dummy,” said Brennan. “He’s always available and knows all the same songs I do.”

The NurSING Notes have performed throughout the country and Canada, providing humor and renderings of songs of old. They have performed for the chief nurses of all of the Veteran Administration (VA) Hospitals in the U.S. at a concert in Washington, D.C. as well as for the VA directors at a conference in Las Vegas. One of the most enjoyable trips Brennan recalled was the time the quartet performed at the Journal of Nursing seminar. “We got to meet so many nurse humorists that were an inspiration to us,” said Brennan. The messages that the quartet uses for their nursing audiences are ones of compassion, teamwork, visionary leadership and empowerment. “You can lose a lot of nurses to burnout,” said Brennan. “We work on ways to get them back. When we need to laugh the most, oftentimes we don’t have the energy to do so. We all need people to help us and support us with that,” he said. Brennan now works part-time as a nurse so that he can devote more time to entertaining fellow colleagues and patients in nursing homes and hospitals throughout the area. His singing is just another way of using a wellness and therapeutic approach to decrease the stress in people’s lives. “Worry and stress become damaging,” said Brennan. “They knock out the immune system.”

Father Champlin agreed. “When you laugh it creates endorphins and you feel better,” he said. There are 300 seats available for the Guardian Angel Society Luncheon. Tickets are $35 each or a table of 10 for $325. Parking is available in the Sheraton garage at no charge. Contact Kathy Fedrizzi, director of the Guardian Angel Society at (315) 422-4218 for further information about reservations and tickets. Reservations are required by Monday, Oct. 4.

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