Sport Helps Restore Normalcy to a Wounded Town

4 years ago

Despite the horrific events last week in Newtown, Conn. most residents of the small community wouldn't want to live anywhere else. Having grown up not far from Newtown, I can relate to how idyllic it is to be part of a small New England town.

Unlike Los Angeles, where I currently live, the public schools in Fairfield County, and especially Newtown, are as good as most private schools, and for the most part, neighborhood kids attend local schools together. This affords students the kind of community they don't often find in LA - kids on our street attend a dozen or more different schools creating a forced estrangement from neighbors who are generally caught up in their own  activities.

I remember playing Newtown High in sports and completely understand why a return to the court will help bring a sense of normalcy to the community. The Connecticut Post has reported that the Newtown’s girls basketball team plans to return to action Wednesday night against Masuk (Conn.) High. The Nighthawks are the current reigning Class LL state champions, a success which has generated significant civic pride in the town in 2012.

"It's been difficult," Newtown girls basketball coach Jeremy O’Connell told the  Post. "I've been amazed how the community has been able to rally around each other."

The girls basketball program will attempt to help that healing process, both by returning to the court and helping to raise money for the families of the Sandy Hook victims. According to the Post, Newtown will be kicking off the team’s “Threes for Sandy Hook” program, in which every three-pointer hit at the varsity, junior varsity and freshmen level will earn $3 in funds for families of the Sandy Hook victims. The matching funds come from bike manufacturer Cannondale, whose corporate headquarters are in neighboring Bethel, Conn. 

The girls basketball team is just one of a number of sports groups trying to help bring back a sense of normalcy. As highlighted by this SB Nation video, producer Amy Nelson takes a look at how sport can help the healing process. She interviewed local coaches and youth sports officials who opened up a large indoor sports complex to help provide an escape from constant grief  on a day that local kids would normally have been back at school. 

The Newtown Youth Academy is another notable example of how residents are trying to restore normalcy to this wounded town. Children need to be children and the academy is helping them be just that - out of the spotlight and away from the inescapable glare of the national media. 

Meanwhile, professional athletes are also stepping up to the plate to do what they can.  New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz visited the home of 6-year-old Jack Pinto, a shooting victim who was buried in a replica Cruz jersey. Two days earlier, Cruz wrote the message "My Hero" on a shoe worn during an NFL game. During his visit to Newtown,  several elementary school-age children played touch football with Cruz in the front yard of Pinto's home. . Many wore Giants jerseys or Newtown football or wrestling shirts as they laughed, smiled and hugged.

Sport can't erase the horrors of last week, but hopefully in a small way, it can help the healing process. 

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