Port Washington Youth Activities (PYA) held its 25th Annual Hall of Fame dinner dance at the North Hempstead Country Club recently. More than 250 participants attended the organization’s largest fundraising event of the year, which serves as the culmination of PYA’s sports year. That evening, PYA honored Chris Callahan and John “Pepe” Salerno (in memoriam). Both of these men, in their own ways, have helped to solidify and grow the organization which had its beginnings in 1963.
The event was another huge success thanks in no small part to the generosity of PYA’s friends and local business owners who sponsored or donated a multitude of items for the silent auction and bid generously throughout the evening. The Hall of Fame dinner dance remains the organization’s most important fundraising event and both PYA and its top-notch Lion’s Field facility and scholarship program continue to thrive because of the donations and contributions of its friends and supporters. PYA’s Board of Directors would like to thank all those who attended, as well as those who contributed.
Chris Callahan grew up in East Northport, the second of six children. He and his siblings were active in multiple sports, but baseball was always Chris’ favorite, especially as his father was his Little League coach. Chris played baseball for four years at St. Anthony’s High School, where he was named Nassau/Suffolk Catholic High School All League in his senior year. He went on to play baseball his freshman year at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, from which he graduated with a degree in economics and accounting.
With Callahan’s sons Ryan and Sean going through the PYA programs, their participation in many sports provided plenty of opportunities for Callahan to develop his coaching and administrative skills. From 2002–10 he served as commissioner for both baseball and basketball for Sean’s grade. During that same time, he also coached teams for both boys: travel baseball teams for nine years, basketball teams for five years, and an assistant football coach for a year. Most recently, Callahan has been involved with running the kindergarten/first grade girls’ softball program.
Callahan’s steady and increasing involvement in those early years led to his election as a member of the PYA board of directors in 2003. He dove right in and has served on various committees over the past 12 years, including the nominating, dinner dance, disciplinary and fundraising committees. Beginning in 2016, he will be the new chairman of the dinner dance committee.
Chris has also volunteered his time as a coach for St. Peter’s CYO basketball teams and recently coached his final game with his son Sean’s team, ending a rewarding 10-year journey.
Chris has spent his career in financial management positions in the broadcast industry, logging 20-plus years with CBS, and the past eight years at ABC where he is the executive director of finance for ABC News and the broadcast operations division.
JOHN “PEPE” SALERNO
Pepe Salerno was a two-sport athlete during his PYA days, playing football from 1977-80 and lacrosse from 1978-84. He focused on the latter as he entered Schreiber High School where he played three years of varsity lacrosse. Salerno earned All-League honors in 1988 as the team went to the Nassau County Class A finals. Collegiately, Salerno played two years of lacrosse for Nassau Community College in 1989 and 1990, and achieved Second Team Junior College All-American status in 1990. From Nassau he moved on to St. John’s University, graduating in 1992 after two solid lacrosse seasons. As a team captain his senior year, by the time he graduated, he was in third place as St. John’s all-time scoring leader, and second in career goals.
Salerno parlayed his post-collegiate career into club and professional lacrosse, playing on the North Hempstead Lacrosse Club (USCLA), and for the New York Saints (National Lacrosse League) pro indoor team in the 1990s. All the while, he was developing a sales career which ultimately led him to Cantor Fitzgerald on Wall Street in 1994. As he and his wife Danielle settled into Westfield, NJ, Pepe volunteered to be head coach of the town’s fifth-sixth grade youth lacrosse team from 1999–2001. He was tragically killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Pepe was just 31 years old.
Pepe felt that his most treasured accomplishment was “giving back” and coaching that group of fifth and sixth grade boys in Westfield’s youth program, much like he experienced from his PYA days. Those that knew him remember his infectious smile and his favorite saying, “There is no ‘I’ in team.” He would be so proud to know that the young Westfield boys wore his initials on their helmets throughout their high school and collegiate lacrosse careers.
In addition to Danielle, Salerno is survived by his son Jack, soon to enter the ninth grade, who is a PYA alumnus of its football and lacrosse programs.
PYA President Jim Dalimonte said about the evening, “It was a great night to honor two very special people for PYA’s 25th annual Hall of Fame dinner dance. With another huge crowd in attendance, PYA is so lucky to have such great friends to pay tribute to Chris, and to Pepe’s memory. Both have done so much over the years to help make PYA what it is today.”
PYA, established in 1963, is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to promote the sportsmanship and character development in children through participation in its sports programs. PYA is the only Better Business Bureau-accredited sports-related charitable organization in Port Washington. With its top-notch facilities located at the end of Glen Lane in Port Washington, PYA has one of the finest youth sports complexes on Long Island.
Visit the PYA website, www.pyasports.org, to sign up online, get further details, or print an application as the fall sports registration is about to begin. Details for those are also available on the website. The 18th Annual PYA Golf Outing is on Oct. 12 at the Village Club of Sands Point.