Service of Options

May 29th, 2012

Categories: Charity, Choice, Options

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The word “option” came up in remarks made by both special award winners at the 63rd annual ceremony of The Christopher Awards last week. I was fortunate to be part of the team to promote the event.

Marty Lyons, former defensive lineman for the New York Jets and ESPN Radio color analyst, spoke about the options faced by one of the children he met through the foundation he launched 30 years ago. In fact it was for this foundation that he was given the 2012 James Keller Award. James Keller founded The Christophers and the award recognizes adults who impact the lives of children and young people who change the world.

christophers2012motherdeloresmartylyonsLyons, [his photo is on the right, with Mother Dolores Hart], told the guests at the gala in New York about a 17 year old severely ill with leukemia. She told Lyons she dreamed she had gone on a walk, farther from home than usual, and was confronted with the option of returning or going on to God’s house, which seemed to represent the shorter distance. He said that she knew that it was time to give up the pain and morphine and to go to her new home. That day, he said, she chose the latter option.

In three decades, the Marty Lyons Foundation has offered hope and inspiration to seriously ill children and teens. Among the over 6,000 wishes the Foundation has granted, it provided a seizure-alert dog for a teen, a trip for a 13-year-old girl dying from leukemia to visit her extended family, and sent a Long Island, N.Y. boy with a rare genetic disease to Disney World with his family.

Helping these children appears to have been a natural choice for Lyons and as a gifted speaker, describing the program a joy. However he is so moved by their plight that he chokes up with emotion when he speaks about some of them. He had to stop to catch his breath as he told us that the child who inspired the foundation would have celebrated his birthday the day before the May 24 awards gala. Lyons, who works full time and maintains a frantic schedule, opted to show his emotions when he could have said he was too busy to attend or could have kept his remarks on safe ground, addressing issues that didn’t touch him deeply.

Mother Dolores Hart. Photo Bettina Cirone

Mother Dolores Hart. Photo Bettina Cirone

The issue of options came up again when the other special award winner, Mother Delores Hart, noted “we have the option to live correctly.” The 2012 Christophers’ Life Achievement Award recognized the former actress who became a Benedictine nun at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn. There aren’t many people with a soaring career who opt for the path Mother Delores chose. The first actress to kiss Elvis on screen, she was recently profiled in the Academy Award-nominated documentary “God is the Bigger Elvis.”

Mother Dolores never left behind her connection to the arts.  With close friend Academy Award-winning actress Patricia Neal, she built a performing arts center on the Abbey grounds, which hosts a wide range of community productions.  She remains an active member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gives her a vote that helps determine each year’s Oscar winners.

Can you share examples of options where the choices are dramatic and repercussions difficult or life-changing?

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Mary Higgens Clark is to the right of Mother Dolores; Ken Schroy of the Marty Lyons Foundation to Marty’s left; Mrs. Lyons to his right.

4 Responses to “Service of Options”

  1. Peter di Napoli Said:

    Remarkable what Marty Lyons and Dolores Hart have done with lives, theirs and others, after successful careers in entertainment, albeit in two vastly different fields, sports and film. (Although when you think about it, perhaps the pressures they felt in performance were actually no quite so dissimilar.)

    There have been others like them who have chosen positive options when the performing days were over. Byron “Wizzer” White served many years as a Supreme Court Justice and Roger Starback built a real empire after their football days were over. And what about film stars, General Jimmy Stewart and President Ronald Reagan? However, sadly, far too many former professional athletes and film stars fare far worse, sometimes through no fault of their own.

    Fortunately, the National Football League has finally recognized that many of their former players now need help, and are doing something about it in cooperation with their players association. I wonder if the same can be said for the film industry?

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Peter,

    Great examples!

    The head injury issue that the NFL is addressing is fine as far as it goes, but it seems to me that a lot of the athletes –young ones as well –sacrifice their bodies to these games. For adults to opt for big salaries and pain is one thing. I worry about high school and college students whose coaches and parents push them on to bigger and better rewards….and they might not make it big [so few do). Who is protecting them?

  3. ASK Said:

    If my memory is serving me well, Dolores Hart was also once a contestant for the annual “Miss Rheingold” beer competition, always featured in the Daily News rotogravure section.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    ASK,

    What a great memory! I remember Rheingold beer but I didn’t follow the competition. She is still extraordinarily beautiful.

    In the day I adored Dolores Hart in “Where the Boys Are.”

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