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February 2005

Dick Gallagher -
Youth Has No Better Friend

by Joseph H. RADDER

Perhaps it's because he lost a daughter in her twenties after her battle with alcoholism. Or perhaps it's a natural instinct. He would call it God's will. Whatever his motivation, Dick Gallagher is a true friend to the young people of Western New York. In his work, as executive director of Alcohol and Drug Dependency Services Inc., and as his avocation, one of this area's most dedicated supporters of youth sports, Dick Gallagher serves young people every day of his life.

He spearheaded the effort in the 1980s to build Renaissance House in West Seneca, now twice its original size. This is a 62 bed campus where young people addicted to drugs and/or alcohol can find recovery. There are 16 beds for girls and 46 for boys.

"I've been in the addiction field for 36 years," he says, "and so I've seen the agony and pain that addiction causes and the ecstasy of recovery."

Gallagher also heads up a 59 bed adult facility, Terrace House, at 291 Elm Street in downtown Buffalo as well as other addiction treatment programs.

As one of the founders of the Kids Escaping Drugs Campaign, he was instrumental in establishing the annual telethon to raise funds for this worthy cause. His avocation as a youth sports enthusiast dovetails beautifully with his profession. He explains it this way: "My two separate lives came together. My professional career has been in addictions and my labor of love has been in youth sports. So, when we opened up Renaissance House, we found that there were kids there that were not only dependent on drugs and alcohol, but some were also good athletes." As a result of treatment, these young people were able to return to their respective high schools and do exceptionally well.

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Dick’s parents John and Julia Gallagher - 1938. Bob and Dick Gallagher at their First Communion - 1948.
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Twin brothers Bob and Dick at the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame induction - 2003. Ann and Dick have been married 40 years.

In 1983, Dick Gallagher founded the publication now known as Western New York High School Sports. Originally, it focused on high school football, but now covers baseball, basketball, sports of all sorts.

He was instrumental in founding the annual All-Academic sports awards, presented annually at the All-Academic Sports Banquets. As if this weren't enough, he's also a member of the New York State Sports Writers Association, is on the board of the Jerry Butler Athletes in Action Football Camp, a member of the Ilio DiPaolo Scholarship Committee, is on the board of the Alcohol and Drug Dependency Services Foundation which operates Kids Escaping Drugs, and is also an usher at St. Michael's Church where he attends church daily.

Dick Gallagher's faith shines through in almost all of the conversations he has with visitors. Almost ten years ago, he told a Buffalo News reporter, "I'm a background person. Nothing I do is about rewards because God will give me my rewards. It's all about kids and doing good things for them."

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Dick getting a lift from Rick and Michael. Front row: Morgan (10), Austin (8) and Dillon (12).
Back row: Pattie and Michael - 2003.
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Meghan and Rick at their wedding - 1998. Rick and Meghan’s children, Mary Claire (2) and Liam (4) - 2004.
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Daughter Christine is Dick’s “Little Girl” forever.

Yet, in spite of his modesty, if one digs deep enough he can find a list of 18 awards Dick Gallagher has received since 1979, not the least of which is his 2003 induction into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame and his selection this year as the Niagara Police Athletic League Sports Person of the Year. The award he treasures most, however, is the Father Baker Service to Youth Award which he received in 2002.

For many years, local and national leaders have known they could call on Dick Gallagher to get a job well done. He has been a consultant to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a member of the Governor's Advisory Council on Alcoholism, a board member for the Night People Drop-In Center, a board member of Prevention Focus and Crisis Services Inc. He has also been a trustee for the Village of Williamsville and on its advisory board for youth. He was chairperson of the Erie County Committee of Alcoholism Professionals. His sports expertise was put to good use for Joe McCarthy/Matthewson Youth Baseball, as a coach for twenty years and as president of the Joe McCarthy Baseball League as well as Matthewson/McCarthy Babe Ruth Baseball. He served on the advisory board of the Media Prevention Resource Center, on the board of directors of the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, on the New York State Senate Advisory Committee on Alcoholism, the Board of Director of Horizon Village and was co-chair of the ECC Football Touchdown 2001 committee.

Dick Gallagher and his twin brother, Bob, who operates a management consulting firm in Pittsburgh, were born in the Bronx on January 21, 1941. His father, John J. Gallagher was a Veterans' Hospital Administrator. "He kept getting promoted," Dick remembers, "and so we moved around the country to a number of different cities, finally settling in Bath, New York, where I graduated from Haverling high school."

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Dick’s induction into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, 2003.  
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Dick on the sidelines watching high school football. Dick presenting an award to Jamestown’s Aaron Leeper at the WNY High School Football Awards Banquet - 2000.

His mother, Julia Dee Gallagher, was an accomplished pianist, who taught piano and played in churches in all of the cities where they lived.

One of Dick's fondest childhood memories is of his grandfather, who was superintendent at the Concord Reformatory in Concord, Massachusetts. "We actually lived in the reformatory for awhile." He said, smiling.

After high school, Dick went on to Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He received a master's degree in social work in 1969 at the University of Buffalo.

Dick Gallagher and Ann McMahon were married on August 22, 1964 in Binghamton. Ann recently retired after 35 years of service as a nurse in the V.A. hospital system.

They have two sons whom they are very proud of, Michael, principal at Lewiston-Porter High School, who lives with his wife, Pattie and three children, Dillon, 12, Morgan, 10, and Austin 8, in Williamsville. Rick, who teaches Spanish at Clarence High School, also lives in Williamsville with his wife, Meghan, and two children, Liam, 4, and Mary Clare, 2. Rick and Meghan are expecting twins in July. Grandpa Dick, a twin himself, is delighted. And, of course, Dick Gallagher never talks about his family without mentioning his daughter, Christine, who died at age 24. He is firm in his conviction that a facility like Renaissance House could have saved her life.

Dick Gallagher has three favorite words…passion, perseverance, and positive. He always thinks of the glass as being half full. He also has tremendous faith. "I have been blessed that God has provided me with a wonderful family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues and has enabled me to do the things I have done."

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Nancy Rude, Joanne Hudecki and Dick at a Kids Escaping Drugs Telethon. Dick with Barry Lillis at the annual Kids Escaping Drugs Telethon on WGRZ-TV.
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A view of the Renaissance Campus, a 62 bed campus that treats chemically dependent adolescents,
located in West Seneca.

Is the war on drugs being won? Not really. Dick estimates that there is more drug abuse today than ever, particularly among young people. "Parents are doing a poor job of parenting and caring" he says.

Gallagher's career path reflects the community's respect for him as an expert in the field of addiction. Beginning in 1969 as a social worker at the E.J. Meyer Memorial Hospital, he became director of Rehabilitation Services for the Buffalo Area Council on Alcoholism in 1970, and then Executive director of that organization in 1972. In 1975 he was appointed Executive director of the New York State Council on Alcoholism, and in 1981, coordinator of Alcohol Services for the Erie County Department of Mental Health. Since 1984, he has been executive director of Alcohol and Drug Dependency Services Inc.

Truly, the young people of Western New York have no better friend than Dick Gallagher.

Joseph H. Radder, a frequent contributor to Living Prime Time, is author of a new book, Young Jesus, the Missing Years. For more information, phone 1-888-280-7715 or visit

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