While most college students go to exotic places or work during spring break, Eastern Connecticut State University seniors Nick Fitzner of Glastonbury and Patrick Scully of Farmington have different plans. These two captains of Eastern's Rugby Club will be biking for their own charity, "Nick and Patrick's Ride for Hunger," which begins March 18 and will end on March 25.
Scully, a history major, and Fitzner, an economics major, will start at the White House in Washington, D.C., and finish at the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic. During the trip, they will travel 500 miles through Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. They plan to average 85 miles a day, with one day of rest during the week.
Scully and Fitzner hope to raise $25,000 for the soup kitchen, Connecticut Food Bank and the Greater Hartford Food Share. In doing so, they also want to raise awareness of hunger in Connecticut. Since arriving at Eastern four years ago, Fitzner and Scully -- along with their rugby teammates -- have been active in Willimantic, volunteering at the Covenant Soup Kitchen, which provides thousands of meals, love and caring to hundreds of impoverished individuals every month.
According to the Connecticut Food Bank website, one in seven households is struggling to afford food and there are more than 400,000 people in Connecticut who are at risk of hunger every year.
Fitzner and Scully are inspired by Eastern Rugby coach Ray Aramini, who has participated in two Bike for Bread charity events dating back to 1996. In 1996, he rode his bike 500 miles from the Canadian border to Willimantic. The event raised more than $65,000 for the Covenant Soup Kitchen. In 2000, Aramini biked from Stockton, CA, to Willimantic in a 37-day journey that covered 3,087 miles.
"[Coach] Ray is our inspiration for having a chance to do something great," said Fitzner. "He is a good influence on not just Pat and me, but to everyone who has seen, heard, or been part of what he has done. Pat and I are blessed to give back to the community like Coach Ray has achieved. From this, we hope to create awareness for hunger and create a stronger relationship between the university and the town. We also hope to inspire Eastern students to get out and get involved with the community."
As captains of the rugby team, Scully and Fitzner have been instrumental in leading the team to the New England Rugby Union Division III playoffs in 2010 and 2011. During summers, Scully works for the Farmington Parks and Recreation Department at "Playground Pals," a local camp for children. Each summer, Fitzner works with the developmentally disabled at Camp Harkness in Waterford.
Fitzner recently received the Dan "Eskimo" Romero Award for outstanding leadership for 2011-12. This annual award is presented to a member of Eastern Connecticut State University Men's Rugby Team who displays outstanding leadership skills, dedication to the team and camaraderie both on and off the field.
For more information on Fitzner and Scully's event, visit www.nprideforhunger.org.