Academy Eighth Grade Students Emcee Annual CATCH Charity Gala

Ella Hennes, Jack Rollins and Naya Azoury with 2019 CATCH Hall of Fame inductee Rhonda Walker.

Grosse Pointe Academy eighth graders Naya Azoury, Ella Henness and Jack Rollins were chosen as emcees for the 30th annual CATCH Night of Champions gala, held on Thursday, October 17, 2019 at The Henry Hotel in Dearborn. These students were selected as part of a process that included a written application and oral presentation.

Dean of Students for Intermediate and Middle Schools at The Grosse Pointe Academy, Sasha Murphy, who oversees the selection process, said the Academy’s partnership with CATCH began in 2000, when a Fun Run was created to raise money for the charity.

“We love partnering with the CATCH organization, because it’s a great opportunity for our students to help children who need some extra support due to illness,” said Murphy. “Students at GPA look forward to the annual CATCH Fun Run each year and are excited when we reveal the final donation amount.” This year’s donation total was $750.

4th and 5th Grade Students at this year’s Fun Run

CATCH Executive Director Jim Hughes, remembers coming up with the idea to have Academy students emcee the charity’s signature gala after several interactions with the school. “At that point, we had been coming to GPA for several years to watch their Fun Run,” Hughes said.” I was so impressed with their professionalism and polish, that I asked Sasha about possibly having a couple of the students emcee our big fundraiser.” Murphy agreed, bringing the Academy-CATCH partnership to a new level.

Sasha Murphy with Jim Hughes and GPA students at the second annual CATCH Fun Run in 2001.

This will mark the 12th year that Academy students have emceed the highly-attended gala that features a sit-down dinner, CATCH Hall of Fame Induction ceremony for community leaders and a live auction. Each year, Hughes writes the script and sends it to the emcees so they can practice their speaking parts. “About a week before the event, I came to campus for a run-through to check on their progress,” Hughes said. “I’m consistently blown away by how quickly (GPA students) grab onto the script, and their poise when standing in front of a stranger.”

When asked before the event how she was feeling about her big night, Ella Henness replied that she was “a little nervous but mostly excited.” She added, “I feel very grateful to represent The Grosse Pointe Academy and support such an amazing cause. It is truly an honor to have been selected for this very important event.”

Jack Rollins gave his reaction after the gala was over. “It was a great event, supporting a great cause.” he said. “I felt a little nervous at first, but once I was on the stage, I was more comfortable. My experience at The Grosse Pointe Academy on stage and in public speaking really helped. I am grateful for this opportunity to learn more about and honor those who give so much to CATCH and their communities.”

Hughes thanked each student and praised their performances, saying, “The feedback we get from our patrons is always, ‘Where did you find these students? They’re amazing!’ And they really are.”

This year’s CATCH inductees included Martha Firestone Ford, Mary Anne and Gene Gargaro, Colby and Mark Mitchell and Rhonda Walker. The Dr. Clarence S. Livingood Humanitarian Award was presented to Marion Day, LMSW, Infant Mental Health Therapist in Flint. Founded by the late Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson in 1987, the CATCH charity supports pediatric patients and their families at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and Henry Ford Hospital.