Immigrants And Refugees

Catholic Youth Organization and Olympian, Willie Banks

The Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) of New York is a well-known part of Catholic Charities of New York federation of agencies. We’ve talked recently about how the CYO has adjusted to challenges of the Coronavirus by instituting virtual training and meets for young athletes, and how they’ve leveraged that innovation to raise money for New York’s food pantries – a big hearted collaboration.

The kids who get involved with CYO love participating in the many sports they provide: basketball, cheerleading, chess, cross country, scouting, soccer, and track & field. Of course, the Coronavirus brought that all to an abrupt stop, which is when CYO had to change how it operated. “The pandemic stopped all youth programming,” said Seth Peloso, Director of CYO. “We wanted to provide them with something because their track season was canceled. We put the call out for coaches, volunteers to help set up, led by our Club Coach, Stefan Anikewich.”

When that call for help went out it was answered generously. Now, current and former Division 1 athletes, military families and more coordinate with coach Stefan to lead groups every Monday and Wednesday. In those groups, kids are getting a thorough workout from a variety of coaches.


Willie Banks jumps. He is in the Track & Field Hall of Fame for it. He held the world record in the triple jump for a decade. He was named Athlete of the Year by the US Olympic Committee, and won the Jessie Owens Award for outstanding athleticism in track & field. But he is about to add another accolade to his collection; he is going to coach a virtual training session for the kids of CYO.

Seth Peloso met Willie Banks at a meeting of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. When Seth came right out and asked the amicable Willie if he would do this, true to character, Willie jumped at the chance.


Bringing famous athletes like Willie right to the homes and families of the kids of CYO is inspiring and encouraging. Difficult times may have made extra efforts like virtual training necessary, but it has also made life-affirming opportunities possible.

Coming together to help others is not only nothing new to CYO and Catholic Charities, it’s the model they operate by. Partnering with motivated volunteers, generous donors, and altruistic partners is how CCNY has had so much success, even in the face of once-in-a-lifetime crises like the Coronavirus.

As long as there are kids who need examples of good sportsmanship, cooperation, teamwork, and community connection, the CYO, Catholic Charities and fine people like Willie Banks are going to step up and provide. Will you as well?