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Published on May 02, 2023

Philanthropy Highlights

Women’s basketball team supports breast cancer awareness

The women's basketball team surpassed its fundraising goal at its breast cancer awareness game.

The Eastern Connecticut State University women’s basketball team raised upwards of $4,500 at its breast cancer awareness game on Feb. 4. “Our goal was to raise $1,500 and we raised almost $4,500,” said Head Coach Denice Bierly. “Wow! So many faculty, staff and administrators donated and attended! The stands were full and all were wearing pink in support of breast cancer awareness. The support was overwhelming.”

Alyssiah Wiley remembered

Participants in the Hot Chocolate Run show off the total amount of money raised by Safe Passage.
A ribbon signed by Cara Bergstrom-Lynch's Hot Chocolate Run donors

Sociology Professor Cara Bergstrom-Lynch raised more than $4,000 in memory of former student Alyssiah Wiley on Dec. 4 at the annual Hot Chocolate Run for Safe Passage in Northampton, MA. Wiley was an Eastern sophomore when she was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2013. The run was sponsored by Safe Passage, an organization that supports survivors of domestic violence. Dean Emily Todd of the School of Arts and Sciences also participated in the awareness-raising event.

“This was my 10th time running it (every year since 2013) and I was so honored to run in memory of Alyssiah again and to raise awareness about domestic violence,” said Bergstrom-Lynch.

“Thanks in large part to the generosity of our Eastern colleagues and many former Eastern students, I raised $4,060 this year, bringing my cumulative fundraising total since 2013 to $21,000 in memory of Alyssiah,” said Bergstrom-Lynch. Every year during the race, she wears a white ribbon bearing the names of all donors who contributed to her fundraising.

For Todd, participating in the Hot Chocolate Run is a longstanding tradition. “This year was the 19th annual Hot Chocolate Run. I first participated in 2003, the very first year, and almost every year since.

“Safe Passages has such an important mission, and their annual Hot Chocolate Run is such a fun community event and a really successful fundraiser,” said Todd. By the morning of the event, Safe Passage had raised nearly $800,000. Since 1977, the organization has helped thousands to safety in the wake of domestic violence, helping them rebuild their lives.

Eastern Rugby, Covenant Soup Kitchen take the plunge for hunger

Local volunteers take the Plunge for Hunger.

Plungers feel the deep chill of the February water.

Proud Plungers show their spirit.

Participants in the Plunge for Hunger show off their costumes.

Eastern Connecticut State University’s men’s rugby team hosted the 12th annual Olga Ezis “Plunge for Hunger” on Feb. 4 at Lauter Park in Willimantic. For the first time in two years, the event was held live. The annual plunge benefits the Covenant Soup Kitchen.

Even in the absence of in-person festivities during COVID, the success of the plunge persisted. During the two years when the plunge was virtual, the rugby team still raised about $120,000 for the soup kitchen. “Just seeing everybody back, everybody is excited and wants to do it again,” said Devin Rodriguez, public relations officer of the men’s rugby team. To date, more than $100,000 has been raised with donations still being accepted.

The plunge featured many swimmers in costume. Rodriguez dressed in a blue cape, mask and t-shirt with a unicorn on it. “I wanted to make up my own superhero,” he said. His unicorn shirt was in honor of two fellow plungers who wore inflatable unicorn suits. “I wanted to be the superhero of the unicorns,” he said.

It was not just students who wore creative costumes. A 72-year-old man who refers to himself as “The Lone Stranger” arrived on his trusty steed, “Sliver.” The man played on Eastern’s 1968 men’s soccer team, which made it to the NAIA tournament, and was a lifeguard at Lauter Park 50 years ago.

A group of women headed by Leigh Valliere showed up in tiaras, referring to themselves as the Plunging Queens. Valliere explained thatthey chose this name because they were “older ladies” taking the plunge. “Good thing there are EMTs here to save us,” she joked.

Heidi Groeger ’05 and Lori Riley, mother of Kate Barry ’22, took the plunge dressed as penguins, carrying flotation tubes that matched their costumes. The outfits were Groeger’s idea; this was her first plunge. Riley has taken the plunge three or four times; in 2020, she dressed up as the Little Mermaid.

Donations still can be made through “You’ll find a polar bear on their website, so just click on that and it will send you straight to the donation page,” said Rodriguez.

Donors step up for annual fundraising campaign

WarriorsThe seventh annual #WarriorsGive fundraising campaign that concluded on Nov. 14 generated $84,629, including an anonymous matching gift of $21,629. Of the total raised, 63% is designated for athletics and 37% for scholarships. Nearly 400 donors participated in the four-day online giving campaign — 72% were Eastern alumni.

The accounting program, with $5,150 from 10 donors, was the top performing academic program. Men’s lacrosse, field hockey and softball divided $5,000 in incentive dollars for having the highest alumni participation numbers. Lacrosse led with 57 alumni donors to win the Athletic Director’s Challenge. 

“We were once again pleased with the response from our alumni and friends during the #WarriorsGive Big Match Days campaign,” said Joe McGann, director of institutional advancement. “From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to everyone who donated during #WarriorsGive!”