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Teachers Hit the Links to Raise Money for Students in Need

More than 200 Connecticut teachers, supporters, and CEA staff hit the links at Glastonbury Hills Country Club yesterday as part of CEA’s largest fundraiser of the year to benefit public school students in need.

The Connecticut Education Foundation’s (CEF) 24th annual Hands Across the Green Golf Tournament raised thousands of dollars for The Children’s Fund, which provides eyeglasses, clothing, school supplies, and many other essentials for disadvantaged children throughout the state—as well as multiple scholarships and the Edward J. Boland Financial Assistance Fund, which helps teachers facing extraordinary hardships.

Throughout the year, teachers turn to CEF to request money for essential items for students or colleagues experiencing significant financial hardships.

CEA President Jeff Leake and CEA Vice President and new CEF President Tom Nicholas kick off the 24th annual Hands Across the Green golf fundraiser.

“This tournament makes that kind of assistance possible,” says CEA President Jeff Leake, who served as CEF President for the last six years. (CEA’s new vice president, Tom Nicholas, has now taken over as president of the Connecticut Education Foundation.)

Leake and Nicholas credit the players, sponsors, and volunteers for making the event a success on the course—and for making sure that success reaches the classroom.

“I look forward to continuing to grow this tournament as we plan for the 25th year,” Nicholas says.

Ashford teachers Michael Young, Chris Busse, and Rob Ackerson look on as Brendan Gilotti tees off.

Help when you need it

Leake points out that all school districts—even in the most affluent communities—have children who lack some of the supports and resources they need. Indeed, districts such as Avon, Glastonbury, and West Hartford have used CEF funds recently to pay for everything from eyeglasses and clothing to graphing calculators for students facing economic hardships.

“The fund is always there when we need it,” said West Hartford teacher Theresa McKeown. “It’s been awesome, and it has helped our students in so many ways—including helping a student whose family was facing deportation. The funds paid for shelter for them as they were seeking sanctuary.”

“Anything I can do to help the kids,” said Nonnewaug teacher George Lyman when asked what brought him out to this year’s event.

Putnam Education Association’s foursome of Klancy Martin, Meaghan Wakely, Jon Miller, and Nate Gagnon are all first-time tournament participants this year.

“It’s a great way to take care of our students,” Ashford teacher Rob Ackerson agreed, adding, “More and more, we’re finding we need the funds to pay for children’s eyeglasses. We’ve also helped families who lost their possessions in a fire.”

“We use the Children’s Fund, definitely, all the time,” said Waterbury school counselor Craig Poulter, playing in the tournament for the first time this year. “Our district has used it to supply holiday gifts, coats, and hats for students in need as well as to help several students’ families who had been displaced by house fires last year.”

“We don’t usually need to use the fund, but last year, three of our students—whose mother is a paraprofessional—lost their belongings in a house fire, and we tapped into the Children’s Fund and received $900 to help them through that tragedy,” said Stonington Education Association President Michael Freeman. “That’s what it’s there for.”

“We’re all teachers here, and we’re all about the students,” said Glastonbury social studies teacher Corey Morrison, playing in the tournament for the third year in a row. “This is a fantastic charity that provides underprivileged kids with the things they need.”

Waterford teacher Brendan Ali, who played with a team from the Westbrook Education Association, tries his hand at the putting contest.

Growing to meet the challenge

“Avon has grown in this tournament over the years, and it’s nice to see so many fellow teachers here,” said teacher John Czepiel.

A number of participating locals, including the Education Association of Cheshire, have seen similar growth.

“We started out as a foursome, then increased to eight players, and now we’re at 12,” said Cheshire teacher George York, who has been playing for the past 15 years.

The afternoon shotgun begins, sending nearly 150 players onto the green.

Fellowship and solidarity

Back for their second tournament this year were Region 10 teachers Rim Misckle and Dennis Fowler.

“This is such a nice course and a great way to spend a day off from my second job,” said Misckle, who works construction in the summer months to supplement his income.

“I like being out here representing my union,” said Fowler. “We have a great Region 10 Association that supports us, and it’s fun to spend the day with educators from all around the state.”

“It’s a chance to hang out with friends and colleagues during the summer months,” said Salisbury middle school English teacher Tracy Dowd.

Ronnie Reed, Brendan Reilly, Tracy Dowd, and Matt Janco represented the Salisbury Education Association.

East Lyme teachers Lisa Kriger and Karen Ciccone, who are avid golfers, research the best fundraising tournaments each year and say that Hands Across the Green is a hands-down favorite. “This is a great charity event,” says Kriger.

Marlborough pre-K through six physical education teacher Trafford Underwood came out with a team of colleagues at the urging of the Association’s co-presidents. “Its good camaraderie,” said Underwood, who is starting his third year as a teacher, “and it’s motivating me to develop a golf unit for my students.”

Hebron teacher Christine Gee, like others, said the tournament gave her a chance to connect with teachers in her district outside of work. Colleague Michael Corona added, “This is our biggest group yet—there are 10 of us.” Part of Hebron’s growth in the tournament can be traced to Jenn Wales, an elementary school math specialist whose husband—Steven—is a member of AFSCME. The two unions, Hebron Education Association and AFSCME Local 1565, decided to join forces and come out in support of each other and public school children.

“We all have kids,” said AFSCME Local 1565 President Mike Tuthill. “This is my first time participating in Hands Across the Green, and we’re definitely coming back next year.”

“We have kids of our own,” said Wales, “and it touches us to help children in need. My husband has always been very involved in his union, and his involvement has brought light to how important our own union is to us, as teachers.”

Hebron teachers Kathy Jurgelas and Jenn Wales formed a team with their husbands, Chris Jurgelas and Steven Wales, representing both the Hebron Education Association and AFSCME Local 1565.

Over the past 24 years, Hands Across the Green has raised $700,000 for needy children in Connecticut’s public schools.

“Everyone who plays or volunteers has a great time,” says Nicholas, “and we encourage all teachers and their friends to participate. It’s a day of fresh air and camaraderie, and the benefits extend to children throughout the state and throughout the year.”

Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield has been the tournament’s Platinum Sponsor for the past 19 years, and Graystone Consulting/Morgan Stanley was the tournament’s Gold Sponsor.

Click here for more photos from the Hands Across the Green tournament.

Representing platinum sponsor Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield are Jeff Haggerty, Ken Wininger, Jane Oh, John Bryson, Patrick Farrell, Karan Mordecai, Kate Klarman, and Steve Ribeiro.

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