In the early 1980s, not even yet enrolled at Bergen Catholic, middle school student Jimmy Canton ’85 attended a BC football game. Sitting in the stands, he felt a tremendous sense of pride and common spirit among the young fans. “It was so exciting, and I felt swept up in it. I knew then that I wanted to be a part of this incredible community,” he says. Now the chief executive officer at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, CT, founded by Paul Newman for children with cancer and other serious illnesses, Jimmy felt throughout his years at Bergen an experience of being a part of something much bigger than himself, for which he credits the Brothers and his teachers. “There were so many of them who were such characters—they had high expectations for us, but they were so rich in personality,” he remembers. One teacher in particular has made a lasting impact: Br. Peter Zawot ’75, his sophomore New Testament and biology teacher. “The connection and friendship that began in those classes have stayed with me my whole life,” he says. “He is one of the most dear and inspiring people I know, and we still speak frequently. If I was asked to name my heroes, he would be one of them.”

As challenging as his work with critically ill children can be, Jimmy, who has been with the camp since 1988 when he started as a counselor, wouldn’t trade his life there with anyone. “It’s a place for them to just be kids, where they can be reminded of life’s simple pleasures and joys,” he says, “and to experience friendship and love in a safe environment.” It would seem he gains as much as he gives: “It’s incredibly rich and rewarding and such a privilege to create these experiences and these friendships with these children and their families.”

Jimmy, who lives in New Haven with his husband of 12 years, David, and their two-year old son, Jude, reflects fondly on his high school days and sees clear connections to his life’s work. “I think what I’m doing now is certainly related to my own faith and my sense of responsibility and purpose, and I think that was strengthened at Bergen Catholic—and it was challenged,” he says. “We were challenged about what kind of person we were going to be and what our character was and what a faithful Christian would do. I think there is a connection there with what I do now—it’s certainly helped me along my path in life.”