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08/23/2023 06:43 AM

Tommy Manning: Taking the Mic For a Good Cause

Tommy with his wife Devin, as well as Sam and Alex Bode. Photo Courtesy of Tommy Manning

On Thursday, Sept. 14, North Branford’s Caruso-Bode family will host its 25th annual fundraiser for the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA). Emceeing the event will be Clinton resident Tommy Manning.

Friedreich’s ataxia is a progressive neuromuscular disease that Mary Caruso’s children, Sam and Alex Bode, were first diagnosed with in 1998. “Since then, the family has held an annual fundraiser aimed at raising money for treatments and, hopefully eventually, a cure,” Tommy explains.

This year the family is hosting a dinner on Sept. 14 titled “Living a Courageous Life.” The dinner takes place at the Owenego Inn in Branford at 6 p.m. According to a press release, the night will feature “…hors d’oeuvres followed by dinner and a cash bar. There will be a raffle, as well as silent and live auctions. Attendees will be offered various disciplines of holistic practitioners, all of which Sam and Alex utilize in their lives.”

Tickets are $100 and are available at Tickets must be purchased in advance.

“All of the money goes directly to FARA. It’s a great night,” Tommy says. “This started 25 years ago as the family doing their part to support research and has really evolved into a whole community event,” Tommy adds.

Tommy has been working with the event for about nine years.

“My wife actually worked for the family before we were married. So, through her, I met the family, and we became friendly. We attended the dinner one year and had a lot of fun, so we decided to join,” he says.

Even though the event is only one night, there is a ton of work that goes into pulling it off. “There is a fantastic planning committee that starts working pretty much as soon as one event ends for planning the next year’s dinner,” Tommy says.

Tommy assists in the planning and decorating, but for the last several years, he’s also been serving as the emcee of the event.

“It’s a lot of fun I get to get on the mic. Public speaking is something that usually makes me nervous, but I like to put myself in situations that challenge myself,” he says.

While he’s used to it now, Tommy admits he was very nervous the first year.

“You still get the little butterflies when it’s time to start,” he confesses.

According to Tommy, there are two aspects of the event that stand out. “One part I really like about putting on the event is I get to spend a lot of time with the Bode family and the planning committee. It’s a really close-knit group that I really enjoy,” Tommy says.

“The second thing I like is seeing how great the community response to the event is,” he adds.

Tommy notes that many local businesses donate items for the raffle and action and that people always seem to enjoy themselves at the fundraiser while raising money for a good cause.

“Last year had our best year ever and raised $25,000,” Tommy says.

Helping people is not something new for Tommy. For work, Tommy is a physician’s assistant in the neuro-ICU at Yale.

“It’s a lot of rotating shifts and high-intensity work sometimes, but I really like it,” Tommy says. “I knew pretty early on that I wanted to go into medicine.”

In particular, Tommy notes that neuroscience is “an emerging field” where amazing advancements are being made.

“It can be hard some days, but we see some amazing recoveries, and it can be really rewarding,” he says.

Tommy originally grew up in Pawcatuck but has lived in Clinton for the last three years.

“It was a combination of things that drew us to Clinton. We wanted to be along the shoreline, and Clinton really stood out. We liked the downtown, and it’s a nice little cute town that checked all our boxes,” Tommy says.

Spare time for Tommy is hard to come by these days since he and his wife Devin have a 9-month-old son now.

“He’s the light of my life and my wife’s life. We spent a lot of time taking him walking on the beach or just around,” Tommy says.

In addition to also staying active, Tommy says he also enjoys being a small-batch home brewer.

“It’s a small hobby I really enjoy,” he says.

As for his favorite part of Clinton, Tommy says there’s one thing that stands out the most.

“There’s a lot we like about the town, but I think the thing I like most about the town is that, for the most part, all the people we’ve met have been really down to earth. That’s been really great to experience,” Tommy says.