As published in the Record Journal Sunday March 24, 2013
By Andrew Ragali
WALLINGFORD – All Mark Brennan asks for in return for helping local children interested in sports is a thank you card.
Twice a year, Brennan hosts a comedy show at Zandri’s Stillwood Inn to benefit On the Team, a program he started in 2009 with the help of Craig Turner, the town’s director of youth and social services, and John Gawlak, the director of parks and recreation.
Turner said the program has created a “special fund that’s really dedicated to assisting kids at two levels.”
Money raised through Brennan’s show and other private contributions help cover the program costs for children who normally would not have the opportunity to participate in team sports in Wallingford. Turner said the fund also helps children identified by coaches as having above-average talent that could be “developed or enhanced at a sports camp.”
Since 2009, 55 children have benefited from about $14,000 raised through the comedy show, Gawlak said. The program’s fund has a balance of about $2,000, which will quickly be gone with spring sports on the way, Gawlak said. That’s why Brennan’s next show, on April 5 at Zandri’s Stillwood Inn, is so important.
“The program is a great concept,” Gawlak said. “The community is fortunate to have someone like Mark take his comedic passion and turn it around. It’s nice to be able to see kids carry on with their own passion.”
Brennan’s show “is a lot of fun,” Gawlak said. “Mark tries really, really hard and has progressively gotten better.”
“I’ve been a comic for a little over 10 years,” Brennan said.
When he started a decade ago, his intent was to raise money for another cause His three children motivated him to raise money for kids.
Brennan won’t be the only comic performing on April 5. For the upcoming show, Paul Venier, who bills himself as the Comedy Tornado, will perform. Brennan said Venier is known for his song parodies and use of props. Venier also has a photographic memory, which helps him interact with the crowd, Brennan said.
Students interested in applying for a scholarship through the On the Team program can apply with the Youth and Social Services Department, Turner said. People interested in donating to the program are asked to write a check to the the Parks and Recreation Department or the Youth and Social Services Department.
The April 5 show at Zandri’s Stillwood Inn, 1074 S. Colony Road, will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22 each, and can be bought at the door or by calling Brennan at (203) 641-8808.
After he hands out the scholarships, Brennan only expects thank-you cards from the children, which he said “teaches kids to be respectful and appreciate.”
“I get the nicest thank-you cards,” Brennan said.