Last Friday marked a difficult anniversary for the PYD community: it was the 10th anniversary of the passing of one of our youth participants, Chris Dunne. During his time with PYD, Chris participated in every program we offer, and was a natural-born leader and entrepreneur. His legacy continues to live on to this day in the Chris Dunne Peer Leadership Award that is given out each year at Mentor Appreciation Night.
To mark this anniversary, both George Donahue (Chris’s old mentor and friend) and Regina Snowden (our Executive Director) had some words to share on what Chris meant to them.
Chris was born in Winchester, raised in Melrose, graduated from Melrose High Class of 2001 and attended Bunker Hill Community College. He worked for the Metropolitan District Coalition as the coordinator for the visitor center at Breakheart Reservation in Saugus for 5 years which is now named the Christopher P. Dunne Visitor’s center in his honor. As a young entrepreneur at the age of 12, he started the Soda & Snack Vending Machine Company, still active today, which he ran for 12 years.
Chris had Spina Bifida since birth but refused to let the disease be a handicap to him. He enjoyed playing wheelchair ice hockey, swimming, basketball, skiing with the handicap at Waterville Valley, traveling and had been a Red Sox season ticket holder for over 6 years. He volunteered at Melrose PPS, Melrose-Wakefield Hospital, the Stride Rite Corporation and taught CCD at St. Mary’s Church in Melrose. In high school he received the Melrose High Service Award.
I learned so much from my time with Christopher that words could not explain. I am sure we could all speak volumes and have fond memories of Chris. In an effort to collect more fond memories of Chris, I ask that anyone who would like to share a memory about Chris to please email me with your story. I would like to put something on his website (www.cpdunne.org) to share with everyone who knew Chris. Lets keep his memory alive!
And from Regina:
“Christopher P. Dunne,” as his business card would read, while wearing his suspenders, bow tie, and suit, introducing himself to the buyers at his very own The Soda and Snack Shop. Chris was enrolled in all of PYD’s programs; there was not a PYD program where Chris was not there. Chris did everything: mentoring, sports, peer leadership, and community service. And he had the extraordinary George Donahue as his mentor, who will be the first to say how he learned as much — if not more — from Chris as Chris learned from him.
George, Chris, and his amazing parents — Cathy and Richard Dunne — utilized Chris’s entrepreneurial training and skills to create a successful vending machine business that he began at 14 years of age. One of my best times in PYD Land was the time we all went to NYC together to see Chris be honored by The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship and receive “The Spirit of Entrepreneurship” award. He was selected to be the keynote youth speaker among all of the youth winners. With his financial award, Chris then did what an entrepreneur does — invested his winnings back into his company by purchasing more vending machines. By the time he was 18, he had earned enough funds to nearly finance his college education.
There was not a moment Chris would leave to not coming up with creative new ideas — including how he could help PYD become more effective. For example, Chris did not believe our Holiday Parties had the best venue for full enjoyment. To fix matters, he brought in his family and “Gammpy”, who was a member of the Elks Club in Melrose, and they hosted the Holiday Party themselves. Ever since, the Elks Club of Melrose has since been the holiday destination for PYD participants each and every year. The Dunnes — with Gammpy at the helm and Cathy in reindeer ears — see that pasta is served, goodies abound, a DJ is on the beat, and everyone is dancing to the tunes. Their karaoke party is the stuff of legend, all because Chris knew how to throw a better party, had a strong entrepreneurial spirit and drive, and had the leadership ability to make it all come together and become a reality.
When I went to Chris’s service on a beautiful summer August day, sinking in my heart, I got caught up in a vast wave of traffic due to the massive turnout to honor Chris’s life. I was sitting in that traffic when I overheard a bystander ask a nearby policeman, “What is this about? Is this for someone famous?” I said, “YES! It is most certainly for someone famous.” In PYD Land, there was no greater celebrity than Chris; he was a legend in his time.
It does not seem possible that these many years have passed. We have named awards and honors for him, and will continue to showcase his legacy and be grateful that we were so very fortunate to have had him in our lives, touch our lives, enhance our being. Thank you, Chris, for honoring us with the time, all too short, that you gave. In your visit with us and your fortunate family, your presence was electric and remains so to this day.”