Ann Mara Cacase to Earn Award for Uplifting At-Risk Youth
The Mara family scion champions the San Miguel Academy of Newburgh and will be honored next month for her work.
photos by doug schneider
Ann Mara Cacase has much in common with her namesake matriarch, Ann Mara. The elder Mara — wife of New York Giants owner Wellington Mara — dedicated much of her life to the San Miguel Academy of Newburgh, an organization committed to uplifting at-risk youth.
Cacase has taken up that mantle with vigor, working virtually around the clock to advance the cause. On October 25, Cacase will receive the IMPACT Award, which honors her deep dedication to the Academy, but WM caught up with her first, at Rafele, the popular Rye restaurant she co-owns, to get an inside look at her busy and beautiful life.
Tell us a bit about the San Miguel Academy of Newburgh.
The academy takes these young, at-risk kids and brings them into this school and shows them love that maybe they haven’t seen before, teaches them, and turns them into gentlemen. It gives them not only uniforms but also manners, feeds them, provides a summer program, and sports activities.
Every year, we bring boys from the academy to a Giants game, and they sit in the box with us, then I bring them on the field to meet the players.
Ann with husband Tim Cacase and Chef Raffaele Ronca.
You seem to have taken after your mother in terms of your advocacy.
My mom loved going up [to San Miguel Academy] so much, especially after my dad died. I never thought about it until after she passed, but I am so much like her, because every time she went up there, she’d come home and say, “I wish I could take some of those kids home with us.” After I went up there the first time, I told my kids about it and said, “There was this one kid who stood by my side the whole time; I could tell he wanted to hold my hand. He was with me the entire day.” Then I said to my son Jack: “I wanted to take him so badly,” and Jack says, “Why didn’t you?” I laughed and said, “It’s not a candy store! He has a parent!”
What do you love about Westchester and Rye in particular?
I grew up here — we all grew up here — and like my mom, I like to give back, especially to this town. When my mom died, all the people she did business with here came to her wake. My parents used to go to Town Dock [restaurant] all the time, especially after mass, to have a hamburger; we’d go there after Giants games, too.
Anthony [DeLuca], who co-owns Town Dock, stood in line for almost three hours at my mom’s wake. So, I say to my kids, “You want to go for a hamburger, you go to Town Dock.” R&M Woodrow Jewelers, too. They’ve been here forever. They adored my mother; my mother adored them, and they would hand-deliver things to my mom and are so good to us even now.
How did you first get involved with your restaurant, Rafele?
We met Raf [Chef Raffaele Ronca] 20 years ago, when he opened a restaurant in New York City. We used to drive two hours [to dine there] because it was the best food. One day I said, “You have to open up a place near us; that way, we wouldn’t have to drive down all the time!” And he said, “Well, if you want to go into business with me, we’ll do it!”
We looked for a place for about three years, and then our other partner, Karen [Kulsar] — who, with her husband, has been best friends with [my husband] Tim and me since we were 18 — was driving through Rye and saw the for-lease sign. We gutted the place and made Rafele.
Ann wears her mom's Super Bowl XLVI ring, which her late mother had fashioned into a pendant necklace.
photo by bob supina
Any Giants players you and/or your family are particularly close to?
Frank Gifford and my dad were so close. And [his wife] Kathy Lee, since my mom passed, has been so good to us and so good to my sister Sheila and me. Phil Simms, Harry Carson, and Lawrence Taylor are all very close to us, as well.
My father did everything very quietly, but he took a lot of players to rehab when they had drug or alcohol problems. Now, when we have an anniversary, those same players come back and say how grateful they are, how it was the best franchise they worked for, and how much they loved my parents.
Do you ever have hard times being so close to The Giants?
It’s very tough if we lose a game, because we are so competitive. I grew up on a football field. Just the other day, one of the priests from the Church of the Resurrection, where all my kids made their sacraments, asked me, “When you wake up in the morning, what inspires you each day?” I replied, “I don’t want to cry, but my family, my kids, my husband, my faith, and our football team — that’s what.”