When Branford field hockey assistant coach Jenna Limone decided to organize the MilesForMcGuirk 5K fundraising event about three weeks ago, the reason for doing it was to give something back to Cathy McGuirk who coached the Hornets for 41 years.
Little did Limone or McGuirk, who was diagnosed with ALS last spring, know how emotional the MilesForMcGuirk event, a virtual 5-kilometer event held Sunday, would be for everyone.
More than 30 people gathered at Foote Park in Branford for a 5K walk to take part in the virtual fundraiser. This included Cathy McGuirk and her husband John McGuirk who served as her assistant coach for 38 years, the current Branford field hockey team, Branford field hockey alumni and other friends.
There were 10 high school field hockey teams from around the state that particpated in the virtual 5K plus girls soccer teams from East Haven and Branford. Diane Russell, a former player for Cathy McGuirk, is a field hockey coach at Woodson High in Fairfax, Virginia and she brought her team to the event.
“I can tell you Sunday was amazing and wonderful with what occurred,” Cathy McGuirk said. “You can be sure I cried when we got there, realizing all the loving support. Jenna and Nancy (Kendrick) did a great job organizing it and Stephanie Smelser and Nicole Hansen Sturgess were also very helpful.
“What an outpouring of support and love from all over the country.”
Limone organized the event with Kendrick, another former player and president of the Branford Booster Club. Her daughter, Lauren Kendrick, currently plays for the Branford field hockey team. Smelser and Sturgess were captains on the 1993 Branford field hockey team and they paid for the current team’s entry fees and T-shirts.
Limone said the MilesForMcGuirk event was an emotional day for the entire Branford field hockey community whih gathered at Foote Park.
“It was a happy day,” Limone said. “But for all of us reality set in because we’re not used to seeing Mrs. McGuirk needing help. One of the special things was for her to meet the current players on the field hockey team for the first time. It was an opportunity for the current team to listen to Mrs. McGuirk and understand what she is all about.
“Despite going through this terrible disease, for the team to see her strength and her mindset was a motivational experience for the kids. We were at our game against Hand on Monday and you could see that motivation still resonating with the kids.”
Speeches were made during the gathering at Foote Park, including from Cathy McGuirk, event organizers and members of the field hockey team.
There were 401 individuals who ended up registering to take part in the 5K virtual event. This included nearly 15 high school field hockey teams from around the state who participated.
The goal was to raise $10,000 for a yet-to-be-named ALS research organization. As of Thursday, the event raised $15,000 and Limone expected donations to continue to come in. Donations are still being accepted at https://milesformcguirk.eventcreate.com.
“This was a great event, it was special for everyone and it was awesome to see so many from the field hockey community show support,” Limone said. “With the pandemic and everything else going on in the world, it was a nice break from all that and get to see Mr. and Mrs. McGuirk.
“We hope to do this again next year and make it an annual event. Hopefully by then the pandemic will be gone and instead of a virtual event we can all get together and do it in person.”