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Thoughtful Community Selected For Sportsman Honors

Given to someone who has had a significant impact on Newtown athletics for years, the Newtown Bee’s Harmon Award For Sportsman of the Year — this time around — goes to not just one person but, rather, the many people and organizations that have reached out to assist the Sandy Hook community in the aftermath of 12/14.

From the hometown athletes who volunteered at diversion clinics with elementary school students in the days after 12/14 to the collegiate and professional athletes who have honored Sandy Hook’s victims in a variety of ways, the support continues to be abundant.

“Even after such a tragic thing happened it was nice to see there is so much goodness in the world,” said Jeff Tousignant, president of Newtown Youth Lacrosse. “It was really genuine and it was really touching to know that exists.”

Tousignant was one of many youth sports representatives from town who came together in the days following 12/14, and spearheaded a day of clinics and activities at Newtown Youth Academy for Newtown children, with the hopes of putting a few smiles on children’s faces, and bringing them some normalcy. The outpouring of support snowballed and clinics were held each day throughout the week.

Among those who offered support and volunteered their time were Newtown High athletes, as well as those from the University of New Haven, Yale University, Western Connecticut State University, and the University of Connecticut.

“They just kept coming and once they got here they just kept asking, ‘What can we do?’” recalled David Hamula, vice president of the Newtown Youth Basketball Association, and among those who volunteered to make things fun for Newtown children at the Youth Academy.

Hamula pointed out that the contributions came from a variety of businesses. “The folks at Big Y couldn’t load my car fast enough, the folks at Caraluzzi’s couldn’t deliver fast enough,” Hamula said of food donations from local stores. He added that Carminuccio’s Pizza, My Place, Nick’s Restaurant & Catering, and Big Y made pizzas and kept them coming throughout the clinics. Eunice Laverty, owner of Bagel Delight, provided a platter of sandwiches, and others, Hamula noted, offered food and supplies for athletics and crafts clinics.

Tousignant noted that, in addition to the children on hand, parents also enjoyed a short-term break from their heartache.

On the ice, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers wore special uniforms, with names of the 20 children who were lost, for a game and continue — like many sports organizations — to wear a ribbon patch with the Sandy Hook Elementary School colors, green and white. The Danbury Whalers hockey team also honored Sandy Hook community and, like the Sound Tigers, raised money to contribute to the Newtown Savings Bank Sandy Hook Fund. Other teams in professional sports have been wearing patches on uniforms and stickers on helmets in memory of those who were lost.

New York Giants player Victor Cruz wrote the name of one of his fans, and victim, Jack Pinto, on his cleats.

The Western Connecticut State University women’s basketball team members began wearing special T-shirts in honor of the victims, during warm-ups. The squad continues to collect donations at its games to donate to the Ana Marquez-Greene Music Scholarship Fund. Marquez-Greene, one of the students whose lives was lost, was the daughter of Western assistant professor and nationally renowned jazz saxophonist Jimmy Greene.

The Western basketball team was among the many to assist in the Newtown Youth Academy’s athletics and arts and crafts sessions for children from Newtown. Also on hand at NYA were Olympic gymnastics gold medalist Aly Raisman, representatives of the Harlem Globetrotters, and Major League Lacrosse players. Newtown High School athletes kicked soccer balls around with children, and guided them during arts and crafts activities.

In addition to Hamula and Tousignant, Peter Ward (basketball), Joe Carrino (lacrosse), Tom Mulligan (softball), Tori Laros and Larry Dunnigan (soccer), and Adam Taylor and Jim Parker (baseball) joined forces to organize the clinics at the Youth Academy.

The visits to Newtown continued after the calendar turned into the New Year. Major League Soccer stars — past and present — and members of the New York Knicks visited NYA to sign autographs and play games with children.

Sports has served as a means for those with and without connections to Newtown to show they care — both through financial and generally supportive means.

Checks for various amounts were handed over from opposing high school team representatives during games in Newtown throughout the winter campaign. The Newtown teams have contributed the money to local fundraising efforts.

Newtown High athletes have worn green socks during games, and special green and white warm-up shirts before games. Motocross competitor Damian Buccieri’s bike now includes the name of the elementary school and a green and white color scheme.

The Boston Bruins reached out to the Newtown High hockey program and donated a team-signed jersey for the Newtown team’s auction to raise money for families of the Sandy Hook victims.

Sportsmanship has been evident beyond the sports scene, with letters, checks, and care packages flowing in to Newtown since 12/14.

“Those that were offering their hand really became a part of the community,” Tousignant said.

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