Around 200 youth participated in the annual Mary Harris Youth Soccer Day at Harwood Union High School, an event that grows yearly in remembrance of the late Mary Harris.
Harris played soccer at Harwood Union High School with her friends and peers and was coached by Mike Vasseur, the head coach for the program. Harris, Janie Cozzi, Eli Brookens, Cyrus Zschau and Liam Hale were killed in an October 8, 2016, crash.
Every year since the accident, the Harwood varsity girls’ soccer team hosts and runs a youth soccer camp for one day in her memory. Each year the event grows as children from all over the district come out for a fun day of soccer games and drills while sporting colored T-shirts that read “‘Love like Mary.”
Many of the students on the varsity team remember Harris for her kindness toward others. Last year the team also participated in a stone painting exercise where students painted and designed rocks in remembrance of the students who passed away. Some painted their sport jersey number, others painted encouraging words of peace and love, and some painted colorful designs. Students left the stones around their communities, where they can be found in unexpected areas. Others are placed in dedicated spots such as the Eli Brookens Memorial Bench in Waterbury or the gazebo dedicated to the five students on the Harwood campus.
“It is the most important day of the season. We have to keep sharing the gifts that the kids gave us. Mary gave us the gift of kindness and love of children and we must continue to pass the gifts along,” said Vasseur.
Varsity soccer players ran drills and games for the event. The activities took up the front playing field, both of the designated soccer fields, and the outfield of the baseball field. Laughter, cheering, kind words of encouragement, and the sound of kicking soccer balls were all that could be heard the whole afternoon.
“Just think, if we all acted a little kinder and showed love a little more often, that’s what Mary showed me and I am so grateful,” said Vasseur.