Three Wesleyan University women's soccer players, two of whom are graduates of Newtown (Conn.) High School, took part in the administrative side of Soccer Night in Newtown Mon., Jan. 7, 2013 as Newtown continued to heal from the tragic incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School December 14.
Team quad-captain Jen Brewer (left in photo), a senior who resides in Sandy Hook, and Madeline Keane (middle), a freshman from Newtown, were joined by senior Kaylin Berger (right), who lives in Farmington, Conn., at the Newtown Youth Academy Sports and Fitness Center for the festivities. Nearly 50 major professional soccer players, including MLS stars Landon Donovan and Kenny Cooper, women's national team standouts Kristine Lilly, Christie Rampone and Mia Hamm, and former World Cup talent Alexi Lalas all made appearances with well over 1,000 Newtown youth benefiting from the opportunity. Soccer games, autographs galore and other soccer-oriented activity took place during the evening.
The night was the brainchild of Connecticut native Chris Canetti, president of the Houston Dynamo of the MLS. He got five of his players to sign on and the number grew to about 50 in the professional soccer community, including MLS player Marcus Tracy of the San Jose Earthquakes, a native of Newtown. Newtown is know as a soccer haven and the soccer community rallied around its sport to aid the town.
"Growing up in Newtown, most kids start playing soccer in kindergarten," said Brewer, who attended Sandy Hook Elementary as a kindergartener and first-grader. "We all play in the Park and Rec leagues. Then travel teams in U-10 and above keep us active. Being a ball boy or ball girl at the high school game was a big deal, too. Our girls team (at Newtown High School) won the state title this year." Wesleyan assistant coach Brian Matzke, who is part of the Connecticut Football Club that helped sponsor the event, recruited the three Wesleyan women's soccer players to help out.
Brewer, Berger and Keane were assigned to help with the autograph lines. "We got to talk with a few of the players afterwards," Brewer added. "All the parents and kids were so appreciative. They were happy to just get away from eveything that had been going on and have fun for a while." The festivites took place for about four hours.