X Breakfast: Late start for Gators, great start for Xavier

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Polly Fitz-Gerald

Erin Bratton ‘13 and Shannon Clancy ‘88 prepare to speak to the auditorium filled with Xavier’s entire student body and faculty – over 1200 people.

Catherine Alaimo, XPress Writer

Every school year, Xavier students mark the X Breakfast date in their mental calendars. It is the cherished single day of the school year – save for occasional days during finals week – where students can arrive at school past 7:45 a.m. The late start offers students the opportunity to rejuvenate themselves by sleeping in or by grabbing a coffee with friends while their parents listen to the X Breakfast presentation.

But Xavier looks forward to the annual X Breakfast for a different reason – it is one of the most meaningful traditions and fundraisers. Polly Fitz-Gerald ‘68, Xavier’s director of alumnae relations who helped Curt Bruggman organize the event, states, “People look forward to the X Breakfast every year, especially alumnae, who put together tables with their classmates and friends.”

“We started the X Breakfast 14 years ago to raise funds for the Legacy of Leadership capital campaign for Founders Hall, the Chapel of Our Lady and Petznick Field. It has been a tremendous fundraiser and ‘friendraiser’ for our community,” Fitz-Gerald explained. “The speakers are a way to showcase our alumnae, who are so talented.”

The two keynote speakers this year were Erin Bratton ‘13 and Shannon Clancy ‘88. Fitz-Gerald annually organizes the speakers, and she selected Bratton and Clancy because “they have wonderful stories to tell about how and why they are where they are now. They are shining examples of what our alumnae go on to do in our community.”

Both speakers gave two presentations, one for the parents and one a few hours later for the students and faculty. Bratton, an employee at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, was first. At the age of four, she successfully grappled with a brain tumor. She continued to be treated for the aftermath of her cancer, with surgeries even stretching into her time at Xavier. 

The student body chuckled as Bratton lightheartedly spoke on the relatable anecdotes she experienced at Xavier, such as turning in homework assignments late. However, life-threatening medical procedures underlied harmless moments like these. Bratton informed the audience that she had had approximately 80 surgeries since she was four years old. 

Her unshakable strength inspired many Gators – whether present, past or honorary. “Erin Bratton overcame so much in her life and is still such a strong role model,” said Emily Alaimo ‘24. “Her spirit of can-do is truly amazing. She is the epitome of what you want for your alumnae to be and to give back- to the hospital that gave so much to her,” Fitz-Gerald remarked.

Shannon Clancy followed up Bratton’s presentation. She is the associate CEO of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a non-profit organization that provides basic necessities as well as kindness to the homeless in the Phoenix area.

Clancy believes that she learned many valuable lessons such as about “Catholic social teaching and the call of the gospel to serve our neighbors in need” that she currently applies to her job at St. Vincent de Paul at Xavier, such as when she tried out for sports teams. She touched on how she became involved with service while in college at the University of Notre Dame.

“Through a quality education first at Xavier and then in college,” Clancy “recognized that each of us are called to reflect the blessings that we have received back into the world by sharing our gifts, talents and hearts with one another,” and says it is a “privilege” for her to “have the opportunity to do that with loving, caring volunteers and staff at St. Vincent de Paul.” Love was the topic as she recounted how she had to say good-bye to a girl named Gabriella and her family that the organization could no longer provide for. 

This particular story resonated the most with Terri Borlongan ‘22, who said that she “teared up a bit. Through this example, Clancy taught her that “life is utmostly about compassion rather than any outcome or setback that I am faced with.” 

The Xavier student body had so many questions for the two speakers that there was not enough time to cover them all before the girls had to commence classes. “I was so impressed and inspired by their questions and the many ways that Xavier students continue to impact our community, including at St. Vincent de Paul,” Clancy noted.

This year’s X Breakfast was successful. As late as last week, Xavier’s Instagram still provided the opportunity for more donors to participate.

“The X Breakfast is fundamentally about opportunity. As a student who attends Xavier with a scholarship, I am very grateful for the parents and sponsors who attend the X Breakfast and make it possible for myself and many other students to receive such a prestigious education,” Borlongan said.