LAWRENCE, MA – For nearly 20 years, a local newspaper has been taking the initiative in providing scholarships to support area students and bringing awareness to local unsung heroes. This year, however, was different: it drew the largest amount of support The Valley Patriot had ever seen.
“Last year, we raised 30,000 and our minds were blown. That was the most we have ever raised,” says Tom Duggan, Founder & Editor of The Valley Patriot. “We walked out of the room saying we’re never gonna be able to do this again, so we’re not even gonna try next year.”
Yet as 2023 rolled around, so did support for scholarships – to the tune of a record-breaking $53,000. “Right now the cost of going to college wether it’s public or private is extremely expensive, especially for working class families,” explains Pavel Payano, State Senator First Essex District (D-MA). “This goes a long way to making sure that these young men and women can achieve their dream.”
For Cadet LTC & Battalion Commander for the LHS Lancers Army JROTC Jaraliz Morales, a Lawrence High School student, her dreams of attending college came one step closer to reality at The Valley Patriot Bash. The recipient of the Eugene Smith Junior ROTC Award & John Ratka Memorial Scholarship Award, Morales was presented with a check for $9,465 during the awards. Yet the audience decided that wasn’t enough, raising enough donations during the presentation itself to bring the total to $10,500. “I’m very appreciative, and I feel very grateful,” says Morales.
It’s moments like this that bring Tom Duggan and his supporters back to the bash year after year. “In the middle of the year when I’m not thinking about this bash, and I get a call from one of the parents of a kid that previously got a scholarship and they say, ‘I just wanted to let you know my kid graduated college this year,’ that’s the stuff that makes me feel good.”
What’s the vibe: Walk into a room full of front-line heroes & great music to sling back a shot and support local students.
Sharing the story of a young 12 year old boy that called to contribute his $5 allowance to the scholarship fund, Duggan and his team described how donations large & small can quickly add up. “I couldn’t afford college. I worked for 11 years to be able to pay for my own college. And I look at all these kids today with all these other challenges they have, and I feel really fortunate to be able to help other kids NOT have to wait 11 years.”
Outside of scholarship check presentations, the distinguished award on which The Valley Patriot Bash was established went to Methuen Police Officers James Keating & Kevin Schiavone. The Officer Tom Duggan Hero Police Officer Award was founded in honor of Lawrence Police Officer Tom Duggan, who lost his life in the line of duty on March 16, 1990. “It rocked our family, and it rocked the community,” says Tom Duggan Jr. “When it was over, I really wanted to do something to make sure we kept his name alive.”
What began as an annual commemorative bash to honor his late father and recognize local officers in the community has now blossomed into a sold-out gala raising tens of thousands in support of local youth. “It’s an incredible show of what America really is and especially here in the Merrimack Valley.”
To learn more about or make a donation to one of the Valley Patriot scholarship funds, visit https://valleypatriot.com/tag/scholarship/.
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