Soccer coach turns tragedy into tribute

By on April 3, 2013
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Quinnipiac University’s women’s soccer head coach Dave Clarke is turning the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School into a tribute to Rachel D’Avino, one of the six teachers killed in the Newtown shootings, and he wants students to help.

Megan Maher | The Quinnipiac Chronicle
Clarke started a Sandy Hook soccer shirt auction to establish a scholarship fund in D’Avino’s memory. He plans to make this an annual event where at least 26 shirts can be auctioned each December for the anniversary of the shootings.

One way he plans to sustain the auction is to start an independent study at Quinnipiac for each fall semester, for students involved in courses including public relations, marketing and digital communications.

“[Students] would get the experience with the solicitation of the donations of the shirts, especially the high ranked ones and the higher level ones,” Clarke said. “They could even do the marketing of it and reaching out with social media, Facebook and Twitter.”

D’Avino was the cousin of one of Clarke’s former team captains, Lauren Carmody. Clarke contacted Carmody, the director of public relations at her firm, Adams & Knight, Inc., and quickly got her on-board for a Sandy Hook soccer shirt auction.

“I am the kind of person who is really comforted when people talk to me about it so when Dave [Clarke] came to me with the idea, he was still trying to figure it out and it was still early on,” Carmody said. “When it solidified, it just made sense and it made me very proud and honored to be a part of it.”

The auction quickly gained momentum throughout the soccer community.

Clarke did not set a specific goal for funds raised, but three weeks into the one-month auction, they have raised nearly $14,000 with 889 bids, a number he expects will soon increase. Carmody says the response is too good to be true, and the student involvement with an independent study will help make it even more successful.

“My cousin passed away, but she really would have enjoyed this,” Carmody said. “The one thing we want to do is make sure we do it right. That’s what Rachel would have wanted, and we certainly just want to make sure that we’re making her proud by doing this.”

She says an independent study is a “brilliant” way for students to get involved with the cause, gain some experience and make a difference.

From a public relations perspective, Carmody says it is fun to pitch something and feel like part of a greater cause. From a marketing perspective, she says the sky’s the limit.

“It’s global,” Carmody said. “Those shirts come from everywhere, those teams come from everywhere, the representatives come from everywhere. Communicating what you’re doing, where the shirts are going, how the money is being allocated, all of that, it’s like a full soup to nuts marketing program.”

Freshman marketing major and soccer fan Joseph Wool is interested in taking the independent study.

“My hometown is fairly close to Newtown and I know people that are involved with it so personally I would feel like doing something good for them in any way I could, and soccer is just kind of a bonus,” said Wool, who has played soccer since he was 4 years old. “I think it would be cool to use stuff I’m already learning in a real life situation to help people.”

Wool says he would look forward to enacting what he has learned in his introductory marketing courses about market research to reach a greater audience, get the word out and raise more funds. He already has ideas – he suggests opening up the auction to other sports in the future.

“A lot of people [in America] don’t know about soccer so if you open it up to sports that they’re familiar with they’ll be more involved with it,” Wool said.

Carmody wants to stay involved in developing the independent study, bringing her public relations background to teach students how to keep the auction going.

“There’s a lot of short term efforts out there that are really really important right now, but this is longer lasting than any of those and it makes me feel like I’ve found a way to keep Rachel’s memory alive,” Carmody said.

She wishes she could have taken a similar course herself, while at Quinnipiac.

“What students could get out of [the auction] is what I get out of it every day,” Carmody said. “You learn something for sure, it’s a real life experience, but I think there’s also a warm, fuzzy factor and it just makes you feel good. When students graduate they can say they were a part of something bigger, like much, much bigger than themselves.”

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