— GameTimeCT (@GameTimeCT) June 16, 2017
NORTH HAVEN >> Amelia DePino will be attending Friday’s Spring Brawl, the North Haven football team’s annual conclusion to spring practice, just like she has in the past, just like she has for plenty of regular-season Friday nights in the fall.
But this Friday’s Spring Brawl will carry much more significance for the 18-year-old senior. All proceeds from the spring game each year are donated to a cause. This year, the proceeds are being donated to DePino’s fight against leukemia.
“It means a lot. It won’t actually hit me until the game,” DePino said. “It is (overwhelming), hard to think about it all at once. When I think about everything, I get emotional.”
The 13th annual Spring Brawl will be held Friday at Vanacore Field at 6 p.m. The Indians held their “draft” on Monday night at the high school, drafting the future seniors, and the underclassmen, to the Maroon and White teams.
DePino was also on hand Monday. She said she is now in remission after being diagnosed in January. She expects to complete the entire chemotherapy cycle some time in late summer.
What started as a way to add some spice to the end of spring practice has now turned into a town event. The game was once held in the afternoon. Now, the band and the cheerleaders are volunteering their time this year.
And this is the seventh year that the game is being used as a fund-raider for a noteworthy cause.
“I needed to a way to give next year’s seniors a project to be leaders,” North Haven coach Tony Sagnella said. “We start planning this in January. They select the charity, Amelia is their idea.”
Vincent Campagnuolo, an outside linebacker for the Indians who will be a senior in the fall, is friends with DePino and had a relative who also battled leukemia. So, like many on the team, the cause has become personal for Campagnuolo.
“It makes her feel better. This brings us together. Doing this help us feel good,” Campagnuolo said. “It’s a good feeling to be able to help somebody.”
The Brawl gained national attention in 2013 when the Indians raised money for Matthew Jaques, an elementary school student who was born with a complex congenital heart defect. Jaques died in September of that year due to complications following the transplant surgery.
Sagnella said $13,000 was raised from that game and close to $50,000 has been raised in the seven years overall. That includes almost $5,000 already for this year and that number will only increase once the game happens Friday.
“This breeds humility. It’s that quality I’m looking for in the team. Humility is putting others ahead of yourself,” Sagnella said. “This is an opportunity for our football team to show their status as athletes to help another person. Their whole careers have been about people helping them have a football career. Now, it’s their turn before they leave to give back.”
Admission will be a $5 donation and T-shirts will be sold for $15. A 50-50 raffle will also be held.
As for DePino, the news continues to be good. She was tutored for the one class she needed to graduate this spring. She will walk with her classmates next Wednesday.
“Graduating will be even more special than it would have been if I went the whole six months to school,” DePino said.
DePino will attend Sacred Heart University in the fall, where she plans to study nursing.
“It’s (dealing with cancer) was a lot at first,” DePino said. “What got me through was being myself, being happy and staying upbeat about things, not getting down and surrounding yourself with the people who matter the most to you and support you.”