Thanksgiving. A time for family and friends to gather and reconnect with one another. It’s the one day each year we try to remember what we are most grateful for.
In the wake of the mass shootings in Lewiston, we have been reminded the sports world can help lift the spirit of a community in crisis. Sports can help a city get back on its feet.
We’ve seen it time and time again. From the Red Sox teaching us what it meant to be Boston Strong in the days after the marathon bombing, to the World Series helping the country recover in the months following the 9/11 attacks, we have seen the collective power of sports.
Last month, in the hours following the murders, the Boston Bruins hung a “Lewiston Strong” jersey on the glass at the TD Garden. It was a powerful statement. So was the $100,000 fund they created to help the victims.
Greg Hill, host of the morning show at WEEI in Boston, was fundraising through his foundation within hours. Nearly $30,000 has been raised so far, and he is now working with local leaders to make sure that money goes to the people in the community who need it most.
James Taylor sang the national anthem before the annual Battle of the Bridge, with Lewiston High School rallying late to beat Edward Little and qualify for the playoffs. Two nights later the Lewiston boys soccer team beat EL to advance in the postseason, then won the state championship in overtime. Coach Dan Gish’s team, a diverse roster of players that reflects the makeup of the city, helped lift the community with a beautiful victory.
Many of the players on that team are part of families that traveled here from around the world to find a better life. They’ve been welcome to their new home, and repaid that love with a victory that helped a city stand up and cheer again.
That same weekend, the Lewiston Strong softball fundraiser brought the community together for more healing. Actor Patrick Dempsey, returning to his Maine roots, was on hand lending his support. So was former Red Sox left-hander Bill Lee, 75 years old but still throwing a nasty breaking ball.
There were smiles, hugs and tears throughout the event. The pain of loss is still real, but so was the love felt by everyone on hand.
Meantime, the Red Sox were quietly making a donation to the Lewiston-Auburn Area Response Fund to help those whose lives had been impacted by the shooting. The fund announced last week it has received $1.8 million in donations.
Next month Fenway Park will host Wasabi Bowl, and committee members of the game are putting together more than 200 tickets for first responders from Lewiston. Those men and women will long remember the horror they saw when they arrived at Schemengees Bar & Grille and Just-in-Time Recreation that night. Here’s hoping they build happier memories watching college football played in the oldest major league ballpark in America.
Rogue Wear of Lewiston, a company that has made athletics bags and team clothing for generations, created Lewiston Strong T-shirts and have been selling them by the thousands. All net proceeds going to the families and businesses impacted by the shooting. Pictures of people wearing the shirts have been flooding in on the internet, a way of showing support and keeping the people of Lewiston in the hearts of minds of people everywhere.
There are other events and fundraisers planned for the future. As the news cycle closes and the media moves on to the next crisis, it will be up to the people of central Maine to help those still dealing with the trauma of Oct. 25.
The continuing support of people near and far will be more important than ever. And this Thanksgiving, we are more thankful than ever for a reminder of the good people can show in the wake of tragedy.
Lewiston native Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. He is a graduate of Lewiston High School.