GAA stars support Breezy Point disaster relief

Reconstruction continues in heavily-Irish beach neighborhood in Queens badly hit by Hurricane Sandy

The Breezy Gaelic Sports Team Building Day is the second time Gaelic games have come to  Breezy Point to “boost morale, ” says former Gaelic football star Kevin Cassidy. Photograph: Conor McBride

The Breezy Gaelic Sports Team Building Day is the second time Gaelic games have come to Breezy Point to “boost morale, ” says former Gaelic football star Kevin Cassidy. Photograph: Conor McBride

 

Rebuilding one day at a time – that’s how Breezy Point’s restoration volunteers describe their job, which is far from done more than seven months after Hurricane Sandy shattered the shores of this heavily-Irish beach neighborhood in Queens.

“Summer is here now, the best building time,” said Jim Kalloran, Executive Director of the Westchester branch of Habitat for Humanity, during a community fundraiser hosted by the Gaelic Players Association yesterday.

The Breezy Gaelic Sports Team Building Day is the second time Gaelic games have come to “boost morale, ” as former Gaelic football star Kevin Cassidy put it, among Breezy’s storm-ravaged community. Despite the efforts of volunteers like Kalloran and his organization, dozens of people remain homeless.

“Some are coming back now that the weather’s nicer, many of whom put off touching their homes….and it’s like PTSD,” Kalloran told the Irish Times. Around him, shrill whistles intermittently pierced the Irish music that blared through loud speakers on a stage beside the playing field.

Local men, women, boys and girls boasting seemingly-Irish jerseys jogged onto the pitch and took their place, ready to learn how it’s done from the likes of Cassidy and Sligo’s Eamonn O’Hara. O’Hara retired last month after an impressive career as the longest-serving Gaelic footballer at senior level.

“I was inspired after hearing from the lads who came out last time,” said O’Hara. “Things like this show the power of when people come together.”

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development recently approved a part of New York City’s “Action Plan” that details how the first round of more than one billion euro of federal funding will help to rebuild homes and businesses after Sandy. Registration for the “Build it Back” initiative coincided with Saturday’s Gaelic games event.

Throughout the day about two hundred people came and went, and many took part in the two tournaments – the Irish America cup, and the novice Breezy cup, which the NYPD team eventually won.

“In times of crisis, you see the best of everybody,” mused Kalloran. Behind him, beyond the pitch, local children swarmed to the large makeshift bake-sale assembled under a white tarp marquee. One box contained particularly eye-catching treats: large chocolate fingers dipped in the colours of the Irish flag.

“We hope to raise money of course, and the guys from Ireland will certainly help with that,” one of the women manning the stands said. “But the most important part of things like this is raising community spirit.”