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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Scholarship ideal way for Auriemma to memoralize shooting victims

UConn coach Geno Auriemma appreciates all the thoughtful folks donating stuffed animals and even talk of the UConn men's basketball team holding a clinic or practice to raise the spirits of those in Newtown overcome by the grief of seeing 26 perish at a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

However, when Auriemma and his wife Kathy discussed the best way to honor the victims, they came up with the creation of a scholarship for current Sandy Hook students or family members of those who perished. The Auriemmas didn't stop there, making an $80,000 donation to get the scholarship off and running.

"When this incident occurred, there were a lot of things being bandied around by people, how do you go about, everybody says we have to do something, let's have a practice over there, let's have a game to raise money," Auriemma said "Those are all well and good, there are a lot of good intentions that came out of this. We talked about something that is more long lasting, something that really makes those 26 people, keeps them in a memorial that is going to last hopefully forever. Symbolic gestures, they come and they go. They are important but I think what we decided is if we could educate the dependents and siblings of those involved and hopefully going forward we hope to raise enough money that there are 26 scholarships for those who qualify that is something that could go on for  as long as the money holds out."

Auriemma, a father of three and also a grandfather, had emotions similar to so many other around the state as news of the shooting broke on Friday morning.

"Initially it was almost what you come to expect from these things," Auriemma said. "OK, there's been a shooting and somebody got shot. The numbers kept coming in and there was just a numbness. The players were already out here for practice when all of that was going on, they were aware of it right then and there. The coaches that were still in the office, you are just numb. You feel so helpless and so powerless. As much as you can, you try to put yourself in the shoes of the parents and the brothers and sisters and you can't even imagine that.

"The average person has trouble dealing with the death of a parent or grandparent so somebody that has been ill for a long time much less a brother, a sister, a son, a daughter who is in school in the first grade. You are not equipped to deal with that on any level. Hopefully we will raise enough money and down the road maybe something different would happen than normally happens in these shootings that the person who did the shootings won't be as famous as the people he left behind and were killed and by them dying they will help give birth to some kids dream of going to college that can't go to college. Maybe some kids will grow up in Newtown and it will be a tremendous honor for them to get a scholarship in some little kid's name that was there that day. If we can do that then maybe everybody will forget the person who did it."

UConn is planning a pre-game ceremony similar to the one held before Monday's men's game at the XL Center. There will be a 26-second moment of silence which will include a combination of 26 players, pep band members, cheerleaders and spirit squad members holding one candle each. A children's choir from Redeemer Hill Church in Hartford will perform the national anthem.

"They way the guys at the men's game (remembered the victims) was pretty appropriate," Auriemma said. "There really aren't too many things that you can do that aren't just symbolic gestures. At this point you are kind of left with those and that is all you can do. That is why I wanted to start the scholarship fund because that is not necessarily symbolic, it is tangible. That is something you can fall back on that you can actually use long term, short term what you can do is show some respect for those people who were killed."


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