I work about 40 minutes or so from Newtown, Connecticut. When the tragedy occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the impact wasn't abstract for me: A colleague in my office lost her niece in the shooting. The loss inherent in the event and the magnitude of what transpired after the tragedy was all-encompassing: Even though I don't have children or have the ability to completely comprehend the emotional and physical pain that the shooting created within the Newtown community, I saw vividly -- in person -- how it affected people.
This was not unlike the tragedy I witnessed in New York City -- where I live -- post-Hurricane Sandy. I saw the effects of the storm, both how it physically destroyed so many areas in which I've spent time and how it impacted friends that either grew up in decimated areas or otherwise live there. I gave of my time to help in the post-Sandy relief efforts, hoping that what little I could do in the context of the massive destruction caused could somehow make things a somewhat better for those that were in difficult situations.
These experiences, operating in concert, were why I was so pleased that the Yale lacrosse program, relatively local to Newtown and having its community directly or indirectly impacted by the senseless shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, gave their time to try and heal some wounds in Western Connecticut when it could have been merely preparing for its upcoming 2013 season:
Yale student-athletes have a long and impressive history of community outreach. The Yale men's lacrosse team raised the bar late last week to help lift the spirits of a Connecticut community recovering from a horrible tragedy. The Bulldogs conducted a free clinic for the Newtown Youth Lacrosse Program, and gave a large group of children a chance to focus on sports for a day.
The Yale players, led by Andy Shay, the Ryan and Forst Family Head Coach, spent five hours with kids ranging from second to eighth grade at an indoor facility where they worked on all aspects of the game.
In an email to Yale Athletics Director Tom Beckett, Newtown Youth Lacrosse President Jeff Tousignant explained the impact of the Bulldogs' visit.
"It is amazing to know that our community isn't limited to those who live within the borders of our town, it extends to all the wonderful people who support and care for us. After the senseless and heartbreaking events of Dec. 14, the joy and innocence of our children was gone. Our focus and goal since that day has been to find any way possible to put a smile on the faces, and some laughter in the voices, of our kids once again."
Awesome. Simply awesome. While Loyola's efforts in Newtown are similarly praise-worthy, there is something extra special about local folks helping local folks, especially given the time restraints on Yale athletes given their academic and athletic workloads.
These are the kinds of things that make you appreciate college lacrosse and the impact its constituency can have on society. If we all did more of these kinds of things, the world would be an even better place. Good on you, Coach Shay and all the Elis that did a selfless and important thing.