On Oct. 26, the Robert F. Kennedy Community Alliance will recognize Jay Calnan, Owner, J. Calnan & Associates, Co-Founder Team IMPACT
Sports have always played a major part in Jay Calnan’s life. Growing up in Bristol, Conn. during a time of economic downfall, individuals, mom and pop shops, and big businesses alike rallied behind student athletes. Jay’s values and critical life skills were shaped through participation in community league programs. Dedicated coaches and a football opportunity led him to Tufts University where he developed a vast alumni network of friends and colleagues. However, the most impactful moment in his athletic career was not his own, but rather the experience of his brother Chris, who suffered from a medical condition that kept him sidelined. When Chris, an avid baseball fan was asked to be the official bat boy for the former Bristol Red Sox, everything changed.
Through this experience, Calnan saw the profound effect that being part of a team had on his brother. He also witnessed the impact that his brother – and the obstacles he overcame – had on the athletes. A few years later, in 1998, Calnan experienced a similar relationship between Joe McGinn, another Bristol native, sidelined with a severe kidney disease, and the UConn men’s basketball team. Then again in 2010, a relationship between Northwestern women’s lacrosse and a little girl battling cancer named Jaclyn. It was at this point that Jay decided it was time to leverage that vast network of friends, business associates, and colleagues to launch Team Impact. That’s when Jay enlisted the support of Co-Founder Dan Kraft, and several other Tufts alumni and business associates to create Team IMPACT.
Founded in 2011, Team Impact is a national nonprofit that connects children with serious illnesses or disabilities with college athletic teams. The nonprofit creates two-way relationships between families in need of additional social and emotional support and college athletes under enormous pressure to perform. They inspire one another and learn important life lessons together, from the value of teamwork to the importance of perseverance. What starts as a two-year therapeutic program monitored by clinicians and childcare specialists often develops into a lifelong friendship between student athletes and the children, they mentor. To date, more than 3,000 youth have been “drafted” to college teams nationwide.
“Years of personal experience on and off the field gave me opportunities to witness the impact a college athletic team can have on the mental, emotional, social, and physical wellbeing of a sick or disabled child,” says Calnan. “Through Team IMPACT, we want to make sure no kid is sidelined by their disease or by being differently abled.”
Calnan has dedicated the last 26 years of his career to philanthropy. His construction company, J. Calnan & Associates, founded in 1996, works across a wide variety of industries from academia to life sciences and is equally as committed to its clients as it is to connecting with the community. Headquartered in Quincy, the 140-person firm consistently ranks among the top charitable contributors in MA for financial support and time off donated to nonprofits. He credits his former college football captain and the first client that took his phone call for getting his start in the industry.
“Relationships are the essence of life,” says Calnan, who also sits on the board of the Boston Police Activities League and the Corey Griffin Foundation. “Everyone has challenges in life big and small. Take our college athletes for example. The pandemic really flipped the script on them when they were told to go home, sports were cancelled. All of a sudden, they got a taste of what sick kids face when they can no longer play with their peers and need to isolate. It makes you realize just how important people are in your lives and how pivotal a single phone call can be. The late Senator gave a voice to the voiceless and opened doors for the most vulnerable in our community. However, I can help, I will.”
On Wednesday, Oct. 26, Calnan will be honored by the RFK Community Alliance with the Embracing the Legacy Award at Boston’s JFK Presidential Library and Museum. Over the years, RFK Children’s Action Corps, now RFK Community Alliance, has sought to celebrate and acknowledge groundbreaking individuals who exemplify the organization’s mission to promote meaningful and sustained well-being for children, youth, and adults facing educational, developmental, mental health, and other challenges. Each year, the organization serves about 1,500 individuals and families statewide through programs based in Acton, Boston, Clinton, Holyoke, Lancaster, Middleton, Springfield, and South Hadley, as well as nationally through adoption services and training and technical assistance focused on youth justice transformation. The organization’s headquarters is in Lancaster.
During the event, Former Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III, an RFK Community Alliance board member, will reflect on his late grandfather’s legacy and the lasting contributions he made toward protecting society’s most vulnerable children and families.
The event will feature a cocktail reception, seated dinner, and program, with awards presented to Nora Baston, Superintendent of the Boston Police Academy; Jay Calnan, Chief Executive Officer and Owner of J. Calnan & Associates, Inc. and Co-Founder of Team Impact; Edward Loughlin, Founder and Executive Director of Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators (posthumous); Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Health and Human Services for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Former President and CEO of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Ed Kelley, retired CEO of Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, will also receive the Lifetime Achievement award.