The Spirit Of Giving Alive And Well In GlastonburyTomahawks Teams Work Hard To Give Back To Their Community
For Glastonbury High's athletic teams, charity begins at school.
The Tomahawks have not only established a winning tradition on the field, but players and coaches from individual sports have contributed to a number of charitable causes as a way of giving back to the community. Each team it seems has its own particular project or two.
"It starts small with something like a book sale but it goes all the way to fighting cancer,'' boys soccer coach Mark Landers said. "Maybe we could do one big thing together, but each having our own events to contribute to spreads the wealth a little bit."
Landers said the boys soccer team's involvement with the Welles-Turner Library book sale goes back to when he was playing at GHS.
"We also do a cancer walk in September, as well as a run for my brother [Bill, a former Glastonbury athlete who died of cancer in 2009] with proceeds going to the Glastonbury Educational Foundation and it funds scholarships for a male and female student."
GHS athletic director Trish Witkin said the boys and girls soccer teams’ help with the book sale, the "play for pink" and "dig pink" breast cancer awareness initiatives of the field hockey and volleyball teams and the "wear red day'' women's heart health fund-raising of the girls basketball team are just a few of the causes that teams have adopted.
"It makes you take pause when you realize that these kids really want to give back," Witkin said. "They're doing great things."
Witkin said often the cause hits close to home with an athlete or coach.
"A few years ago, rowers on the crew team raised money for a pink boat," Witkin recalled. "People would make a donation and get to put the name of a loved one on the boat. That initially began with a student whose family had been affected by breast cancer."
While the boys soccer team has its tradition of setting up the book sale, Witkin said when the library needed post-sale help, girls soccer coach Joe Finocchiaro didn't hesitate.
"I emailed my girls soccer coach and within five minutes he got back to me and said, 'What do you need?' And his girls were right there for it."
Said Finocchiaro: “We get a great turnout. The entire team is in on it, even JVs and freshmen. It's not mandatory. It's something they want to do.”
Witkin said there's no requirement for community service or charitable work by the school or athletic department. It's just something that has grown independently at GHS.
“You never get a sense that these kids are forced to do it," she said. "It provides something of greater value, not just wins and losses, not just developing skills in a sport."
Field hockey coach Maureen Perkins said the annual "Play4theCure" game for breast cancer each October the past four years has been very successful. All the proceeds go to the American Cancer Society. She said it’s all part of passing on something that had been taught to her and her fellow coaches when they were playing.
"It comes from the kids and a lot of the coaches when we were coming up playing sports, the idea of giving back was something our coaches tried to instill in us," Perkins said.
The causes often hit close to home. One of Perkins' assistant coaches is Dr. Mandeep Dhami, a cancer specialist.
"This is near and dear to his heart," Perkins said. "He brings information that helps heighten awareness. Almost all the kids know someone or some have lost someone to cancer, and of course, being girls, it's important for them to learn about breast cancer."
Witkin also sees the charitable work as "part of our mission to turn out leaders." Collecting league and state championships are a reflection of athletic success, but the community involvement and willingness to help others speaks to something larger at GHS.
"Now, you talk about a tradition of excellence in sports, but also a tradition of character," Landers said. "It's great that we do it in multiple ways."