Abby Sawicki tried to keep it a secret from her dad, but he knows her well enough to know she was keeping something from him. Besides that, he probably saw the flyer for his benefit dinner at June's Outback Pub in Killingworth, where the family likes to hang out.
Yes, Abby and her sisters, Amy and Ally, along with their uncle, are throwing a benefit for Cliff McNeely, a Madison firefighter for more than 30 years, first with North Madison Volunteer Fire Co., and then with Madison Hose Co. No. 1 downtown.
Abby said her dad isn't the kind to seek attention for himself, but that "for me and my sisters, he'll do it. He'll do anything for us," she said with a laugh. "He may not admit it, but he'll have a good time.
Feb. 9th, Save The Date
Here are the details: February 9th at 2 p.m., The American Legion Hall in Old Saybrook, at 113 Essex Road, Old Saybrook, CT.
On the menu are appetizers and such. Pasta, sausage and peppers, all homemade by Cliff McNeely's friends and family. Abby and her sisters and other family members are footing the whole bill, so all proceeds will go right to help the family defray medical and other associated costs.
Abby says her dad was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer over the summer. He started treatment, but unfortunately the cancer started to spread. So they hit him with radiation and chemo at the same time. For quite a while, he did not feel very good. But Abby says her dad is feeling a little better now and so that's why they want to do the dinner now.
"We want him to enjoy himself at this dinner"
"He's feeling a little better now, knock on wood," Abby said. "I haven't heard him say he feels good for a long time. God forbid something happens, we want him to enjoy himself at this dinner."
Abby and her family are also soliciting donations, and gift certificates, from local businesses. "We're going to start going to local businesses this weekend. We've been going to the Madison Coffee Shop for a million years, so we'll go there. My father does a lot of work for Madison Beach Hotel, he does fire watches there, so we'll go there. We've been going to the Dolly [Madison] for years. A lot of places my dad goes, we're trying to get donations, or gift certificates for the raffle," she said.
Tickets for the dinner will be $20 in advance, or $25 at the door. To buy tickets, you can call Bill at 860-227-6190, or Marilyn at 860-510-1368 or Ally at 203-824-4679. If they don't answer, just leave a message. Abby says her sister Ally McNeely is probably going to take the lead on ticket sales and distribution.
Honoring a volunteer firefighter and consumate family man
You might know Ally. She's also a firefighter. Following in her dad's footsteps, she's a firefighter with Madison Hose Co. No. 1, the first woman to hold that honor. You also might know Cliff's wife, Barbara McNeely. She's an important member of our community as well, having been a bus driver for 28 years, and having worked at Stop & Shop for 12 years.
Abby says Ally is often downtown at the firehouse, so she plans to help coordinate the drop-off of tickets that are ordered.
Abby says she hopes the dinner will be a good time and that it will help raise the spirits of her dad and other family members as they go through this difficult time. We might know him as one of the volunteers who fights fires and saves lives. Abby says yes, he is all that, and he's the consumate family man as well.
Order your tickets, help out with the raffle, make a donation, pass out the flyer
"We're very close. I have four kids and my father was not only an excellent father, he is an excellent grandfather as well. My kids could not have asked for a better grandfather," she said.
So, the Old Saybrook American Legion Hall, 113 Essex Road, Old Saybrook, CT. February 9th at 2 p.m. Dinner starts at 4 p.m.
Save the date. Order your tickets. Print out the PDF posted with this story and ask local merchants if you can post it. And if you can help out with the raffle, by making a donation, or in any other way, give Ally or one of the others listed above a call or let us know in the comments below.