The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Keeping SJU alum Manny Caridad’s memory alive

Caridad is back in Carnesecca after TKE fundraised through a day of drinking
Keeping+SJU+alum+Manny+Caridad%E2%80%99s+memory+alive
PHOTO COURTESY/ MATT DOWNEY

It was a Thursday afternoon in 2019 when Brian Kiley and Manny Caridad took off from work, grabbed some beers and played the day’s worth of “March Madness” matchups on two televisions and two laptops. Twelve hours easily flew by as they watched sports and gambled — only getting up to grab another beer. 

Times like these shifted to spontaneous trips for Fourth of July weekends with their fraternity brothers. They’d sit back, relax and celebrate the holiday at one of their Staten Island homes. Dressed in Hawaiian shirts, they grilled, drank beer and played their favorite card games. It became tradition.

These were average days spent at Kiley’s off-campus apartment; days that became second-nature. Today, Kiley and his friends look back on these moments as cherished memories with their friend, Manny Caridad. 

This is who Caridad was – “an amazing kid,” as Kiley emphasized.

Last September, Caridad lost his life at the age of 26 to an unexpected brain injury, leaving his friends and family behind to keep his memory alive.

Caridad graduated from St. John’s University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Health Management. When he passed away, Caridad was enrolled in a nursing program at the Borough of Manhattan Community College and had a job as a Healthcare Administrator at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital. 

Caridad was highly interested in sports – he was always watching, playing, talking and joking about sports. During his time at St. John’s, it was well-known among Caridad’s friends that he was an avid fan of the Men’s Basketball team. 

St. John’s alumni Kiley (‘16), Danny Pirro (‘17) and Matt Downey (‘18) have long held onto their friendship with Caridad. They met while rushing St. John’s Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity (TKE) in 2014, and quickly realized the light that Caridad brought to any room – or any field for that matter. 

“I was drawn to Manny immediately when I first saw him play flag football,” Downey said in an email interview with the Torch. “After one play it was obvious that he was the most talented athlete on the field regardless of who he would be playing.”

Downey shared that sports played a significant role in Caridad’s life, regardless of whether he was on the field playing or in the stands watching. He shared that Caridad “knew everything about every sport.” Outside of sports, Downey shared that Caridad “was just as electric.”

“No matter where he was, he was the star of the show,” he said. “Whether that was having the most funny, clever Halloween costume or cracking jokes in between classes, he made every situation better and much more entertaining.”

This energy was present in every friendship Caridad had, Pirro said, noting that their relationship was “nothing short of brotherhood.” From a contagious sense of humor to an ear-to-ear smile, Caridad was always making sure everyone was having a good time. 

Pirro also shared that Caridad was “always at the center” of all things St. John’s Men’s Basketball – this inspired the TKE brothers to consider how they could ensure that Caridad’s impact on the world lived on. Caridad’s circle began brainstorming ideas for a fundraiser, keeping in mind that it had to reflect Caridad as a person because “a guy like him deserved nothing less.”

Then came an idea of what they felt shaped their friendship with Caridad most – sports, friends, family and, most importantly, beer. Someone in the group pitched the idea of a Drink-A-Thon to raise funds in order to buy cutouts of Caridad to be placed in Carnesecca Arena’s stands during games, seeing as crowds were not allowed in the arena this semester. They moved forward with  the idea, planning to host a Drink-A-Thon on Dec. 5, 2020. Once the word got out, it didn’t take long for those in Caridad’s community to make the idea an instant success. 

During their Drink-A-Thon, people sponsored the men for a certain amount of money for every beer they drank. Throughout the day, they streamed their progress over their Instagram story and also had a live Zoom where donors could drink together. Reaching people from New York, Texas and California, they raised nearly $9,000 with the help of over 100 donors. With this money, they purchased 50 cutouts of Caridad to be placed in the Arena on game day and used the rest of the money to put together a scholarship in his name and legacy for youth football players looking to attend Monsignor Farrell High School as Caridad had. 

PHOTO COURTESY/ MATT DOWNEY

What seems like just filling Sections 10 and 11 of Carnesecca’s crowd with cardboard means so much more to TKE. It is more than just his repeated picture in the stands. It is more than just remembering their friend. These 50 cutouts bring together a sense of community, love, laughter and support. It reminds everyone that Caridad is always with them, and seeing him in Carnesecca makes life a little easier. 

“It is one of those feel good stories where we are all doing everything we can to keep his name alive,” Downey said, “and to have him featured at every St. John’s game is such a great thing to see.”

These cutouts have created a larger conversation about Caridad’s story. As fans see his face over and over again, they ask ‘who is that?’ Downey shared that the brothers had some Twitter reactions from other viewers of the games, questioning why Manny was there and why he was there so many times. One of these Twitter reactions included a feature from the official St. John’s Red Storm Twitter page, naming Caridad the “fan cutout of the game” against Big East opponent Xavier on Feb. 16, 2021 – that tweet received 37 retweets, seven quote tweets and 81 likes. Of the seven quoted tweets, some included messages like, “Love you brother,” “Many Mannys wish to defeat Xavier” and “Always and forever #WeareStJohns.”

PHOTO COURTESY/ MATT DOWNEY

Who is that, exactly? It is Manny Caridad, a St. John’s alumnus, a brother of TKE, a friend and most importantly, a light who knew how to make any bad day a little better. 

Kiley, Downey and Pirro strive to show everyone the type of guy Caridad was, and they hope to continue sharing his story with the world.

“I say this often,” Kiley said, “but living like Manny is one of the best ways to live your life, so I just hope that we can continue to spread the love the way Manny did.”

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About the Contributor
Sydney Denham
Sydney Denham, Sports Editor
Sydney is a junior English major with a minor in journalism. She first joined the Torch during her freshman year and started as a Staff Writer, then became Assistant Sports Editor. This year, she is serving as the Sports Editor and hopes to recruit more writers for the Sports section who are eager to learn about writing recaps and athlete feature stories. Sydney is excited to design and publish this year's issue of Courtside in collaboration with the other editors. Outside of the Torch, Sydney likes to do photography.  You can reach Sydney at [email protected].
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    Dorothy BallantyneApr 22, 2021 at 11:18 am

    Beautiful article!! Sounds like Manny was an amazing young man and it’s beautiful how his friends are keeping his memory alive. Cheers to Manny and the wonderful impact he had on his friends!??

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  • P

    Patricia CaridadApr 21, 2021 at 6:08 pm

    Manny was my son, the 1st of 4 children. His sudden passing has devastated me, his father , his 2 sisters and his brother, who is currently deployed in Japan as a US Marine. The brotherhood that developed over the 4 years Manny was at St John’s is evident in the beautiful tributes these wonderful young men and women have done in his memory. I speak for my family and his friends when I say wholeheartedly Thank you for keeping my beautiful sons memory alive. He left a little piece of himself in everyone he met but a piece of us has been taken away.

    Reply