New Haven Students Help Newtown Youth Cope with Tragedy

Just three days after one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history took place in Newtown, Conn., 30 students from the University's lacrosse and ice hockey club teams travelled there to help the town's youth forget about the traumatic event at least for a few hours by playing games with them.

Ben Borelli '13, one of the student volunteers, says it is an experience he will never forget. "I realized that this would be a life-changing day for me," Borelli wrote in an essay reflecting on the experience.

Later that evening, UNH held a vigil on campus in honor of the 26 people killed in the tragedy. Among the victims were first-grader Jack Pinto, the son of UNH alumnus Dean Pinto '94. Dean's UNH Delta Chi fraternity brothers attended a service for his son on Monday in Newtown.

Victoria Leigh Soto, a first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook who died shielding students from gunfire, is the cousin of both Jen Pjatak, director of alumni relations at the University, and UNH student Alex Fagan, a junior majoring in criminal justice.

Anne Marie Murphy, the mother of two recent UNH graduates, was a special education teacher who also died while protecting her students. Her daughters are Colleen Murphy '12, who received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, and Kelly Murphy '12 M.S., who studied education.

To do their part to help the community cope, the members of the ice hockey and lacrosse teams began making arrangements over the weekend to visit Newtown to interact with the students and their families. Borelli worked with his professors to reschedule two of his final exams so he could lend a helping hand.

Throughout the day, the UNH contingent played games and distributed teddy bears and food donated from around the region and the country. Borelli was nearly moved to tears reading a heartfelt note written by a young girl in the Midwest who helped collect three bags full of teddy bears that were given to Newtown's youth.

"I have a new outlook on life," he said.

James Kiley, a junior on the ice hockey team, said he was honored to be a part of the experience. "I can't begin to explain how honored and proud I am of my team and the lacrosse team," he said in a story posted on the American Collegiate Hockey Association web site.

Additionally, students in several of the University's living learning communities created thank-you cards that were delivered to the emergency responders who arrived on scene soon after the shooting took place.

President Steve Kaplan lauded the students for their efforts. "Their caring and community outreach epitomize the depth of character our students continually demonstrate," said Kaplan in a message to the campus community. "They are to be commended."

The ice hockey and lacrosse teams will be sponsoring a fundraiser for people affected by the tragedy in Newtown at a game in the spring semester.


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