CJCS Sports Celebrity Breakfast – The 14th CJCS annual Sports Celebrity Breakfast, which was held by the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors (CJCS) Foundation in front of a sold-out audience of more than 600 local sports fans of all ages at the Gelber Conference Centre in Cote des Neiges on March 25, was a success of Hall of Fame proportions.
Tim Raines, (aka “The Rock”) who was one of the major reasons behind the Montreal Expos’ success during the 1980s, and was known for his prowess as a base stealer, whose 1986 batting title and three years leading the National League in stolen bases and two years as a league leader in runs scored earned him a spot as an inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame last year, returned to Montreal to loud and enthusiastic ovations from those in attendance at the breakfast, as he accepted this year’s Expos Baseball Legends Award.
A record $335,000 was raised at the breakfast, which directly benefits the CJCS’ “Seniors in Crisis” program, which brings about essential needs to seniors in Montreal, so that they can sustain a comfortable quality of life, especially owing to the fact that 21% of Montreal’s senior population currently live below the poverty line, and that by 2021, that demographic will increase by an additional 22%.
Raines, who currently works with the Toronto Blue Jays organization, credited his success in Major League Baseball to his Expos teammates such as Andre Dawson and the late Gary Carter. “They taught me how to play the game and how to play hard. They led by example and were always prepared to play every single night. I knew I wanted to be like those guys,” he said.
As well, Raines stated that he was confident that major league baseball will return to Montreal, and admitted that if he is given the chance, he would like to play a role in its revival.
Chomedey native Mitch Melnick, host of the popular “Melnick in the Afternoon” on TSN 690, was this year’s recipient of the Larry Fredericks Media Award for his four decades as a sports broadcaster. In his acceptance speech, which he delivered as if he doing one of his radio broadcasts, Melnick reflected on his broadcasting career, and his adventures in the Expos press box at the Olympic Stadium, where he started out as the team’s official scorekeeper. He also gave a shout out to former Canadiens enforcer Chris Nilan, whom he helped out greatly during his darkest days of drug and alcohol addiction.
“It’s hard during this day and age to have empathy, yet I helped Chris out because he did so much for this city and for me as a hockey fan,” said Melnick.
Veteran Montreal lawyer Morden “Cookie” Lazarus was recognized as this year’s “Guest of Honour” for his work not only as pioneering sports agent, but also his philanthropic and charity work that benefitted the entire Montreal community. This included his work towards the fight against hereditary breast cancer, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation’s annual Cyclothon, the Jewish General Hospital’s Hope and Cope program, his strong support for Aboriginal rights of Canada’s First Nations groups, and his involvement with the committee of the CJCS Sports Celebrity Breakfast since its inception 14 years ago.
“I find it a real joy to be involved. There is no greater feeling when you do something that will benefit someone who is less fortunate,” said Lazarus. “When I walk around the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors, and I see people who now have lives that are more livable, then I know that what I do is like the gift that keeps on giving.”
As well, Lazarus was treated to a presentation of a special tribute video, with accolades coming from members of his family, friends, colleagues and personalities such as Donald K. Donald, former Expo Warren Cromartie, former WWE wrestling superstar Jacques Rougeau, boxer Otis Grant and NHL Players’ Association executive director Donald Fehr.
Former Montreal Canadiens player Mathieu Darche, and his brother Dr. Jean-Philippe (JP) Darche, who played for the Toronto Argonauts, Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks, shared the Sports Personality of the Year Award for their excellence and genuine love for their respective sports, and their hard work and dedication of their respective careers after their professional sports careers ended (Mathieu now works as the Canadian Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Delmar International, a major Montreal-based global freight-forwarding and customs brokerage firm; JP graduated from the University of Kansas City medical school, and now lives in Kansas City, where he has a family medicine practice).
Also present at the CJCS Sports Celebrity Breakfast were former Montreal Expos pitchers David Palmer and Bill “Spaceman” Lee; Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff from the Kansas City Chiefs; boxer Otis Grant; Canadian Olympian Lizanne Murphy; Tyrell Sutton, Mikael Charland and Oumar Toure from the Montreal Alouettes; Chris Nilan; former Montreal Impact player and broadcaster Lloyd Barker; Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette; Rodger Brulotte of the Journal de Montreal; Francois Gagnon of RDS; Andie Bennett of CBC; Julian Mackenzie of CTV Montreal; and Dave Trentadue and Matthew Ross of TSN 690.
Feature image: Tim Raines (second from left) receiving the Expos Baseball Legends Award from (left to right): broadcaster Mitch Melnick, breakfast Honourary Chair Morden “Cookie” Lazarus, and veteran Expos broadcaster Rodger Brulotte.