Like you, I'm heartbroken over the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. As a husband, a son and a father of two little boys, I can only imagine the grief of those who lost their loved ones. During this season of hope and giving, I cannot escape the reality that darkness visited our neighbors and took away some of God’s most precious gifts – our children.
However, as we all struggle to fight through the dark feelings of anger, grief, confusion and insecurity, we must continue to be inspired by the good that is around us - and the greatness that is within our reach. This season, the Hartford Hurricanes - and a community that never quit - brought light to our local community. The Hurricanes are a local Pop Warner football team that recently returned from Florida where they reached the national championship semifinals. In this season of giving, they gave our city a gift that will be remembered for some time to come. They made Hartford proud on the national stage and serve as living reminders of Hartford's true potential.
The Hartford Hurricanes are an extraordinary team with a wonderful program. The vast majority of their players come from the North End, and their coaches and teammates are dedicated to their shared success. When a player is struggling in school, they find tutors and help them improve their grades in order to stay on the field. When they run into trouble in their neighborhoods, they can turn to positive role models - like their head coach, Phil Bryant - who care about their success on and off the field. And, in a community where health indicators show we have room to grow, the Hurricanes give Hartford children a reason to stay in shape and exercise. The team means so much to the children in our city, and to our city as a whole.
So, earlier this year, when State Representative Doug McCrory brought to the City’s attention that the Hurricanes had no field to practice on, the Mayor and members ofthe City Council went to work to make sure a location was secured in time for the start of the season. Although the road was bumpy from time to time, a spot in Keney Park become the Hurricane's practice home.
But The Hurricanes' challenges were hardly over. Though they finally had a place to practice, the field wasn't a suitable facility for hosting other teams for official games. When they expressed interest in using the City of Hartford's Dillon Stadium for their games, they were sent a bill for thousands of dollars that the youth organization couldn't afford. Mary Welker, a mother of one of the Hurricanes' players, was quick to bring this issue to the Council's attention. So, once again, we went to work on a solution. Not long after this came up, the City Council unanimously supported a lower fees for Hartford youth organizations to utilize Dillon Stadium.
While those of us at City Hall did our part to help, the real stars in this story are the kids. The Hartford Hurricanes went on to play their season at Dillon Stadium, where they won every game. They went on to win the state championship and the New England championship, before going to the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Orlando! There, they beat a team from Texas to reach the National semi-finals, where they fell to a perennial powerhouse from the District of Columbia. And, demonstrating that their program is about so much more than football, they spent much of their time in Orlando in study halls doing their homework for school. These young men make us proud on and off the field.
Two of my finest days, not just as Council President but as a kid from the North End, were joining the Hurricanes and other community leaders, including City Council members Kyle Anderson, Cynthia Jennings, Ken Kennedy and David MacDonald, to load up the bus and wish the kids well as they headed off to Florida, and then greeting them upon their return.
With hard work and help from our neighbors, including contributions from many people in the community and $20,000 in funding from the City, these kids went from being a team without a field to a team that is now the pride of our city. Stop & Shop even donated fruit and beverages for the long bus ride to Florida. The Hurricanes are an extraordinary example of what we can achieve by working together.
I’d like to add a special word of thanks to the coaches, parents and grandparents of the kids. We know that their commitment, perseverance, passion and guidance made this possible for our kids and our city.
It is my profound hope that we are all inspired by this example of a community coming together for a common good. We all can play a positive role in uplifting this city. Like the Hurricanes, just keep the faith!
Reprinted with permission of the NorthEnd Agent's.
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