NEWS: Law, Milford Celebrate Maren Sanchez At Second Annual PLM Festival

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By Ian Hugo, Emily Carroll, Valeria Araujo, and Nicole Macchio – Advocate Editors

Jonathan Law hosted the second annual Peace, Love, and Music from Maren Festival on April 30 to celebrate the life of Maren Sanchez.

This year’s PLM planning committee consisted of Law history teacher Ms. Burns, Jesse Hudd, Mike Hudd, Elena Garet, Karen Passecredo, and principal Mr. Thompson. The six committee members have met every Wednesday since January to discuss the plans for the event.

For the second straight year, Colony Grill sponsored the event and made a sizable monetary donation. Over 30 raffle prizes were donated by local businesses.

Dozens of volunteers help throughout the day, including many Law faculty members.

“I think that having the festival every year it’s a really nice way to see the Milford community come together and see the kids come back that were really good friends with her be here and help each other heal,” Burns said. “Our school staff is unbelievably supportive and they are willing to be there to do anything. It wouldn’t be possible without them.”

Sanchez’s friends were moved by how the Law and Milford communities came together again to honor Maren. Thousands attended this year festival, which was held on Law’s baseball and softball fields.

“The event means so much to me it makes me so happy seeing everyone back at Law celebrating Maren’s life,” said alumni Darby Hudd.

The day kicked off with ahundreds of runners taking part in a 5K race around Milford.

One hundred percent of the proceeds from the festival go back to Milford students through the annual Maren Sanchez Scholarship. The scholarship is not based solely on academics; it honors a well-rounded student that embodies all of the qualities that Maren possessed.

Besides games like dunk-tanks and bouncy houses the event also had booths with many different activities. Those at the event could browse through booths set up by local businesses as wells as booths run by many Law clubs and students that promoted their individual causes.

The Kindness Club, which was created in memory of Maren, celebrated her legacy by painting Ben’s Bells and giving kids stickers as they talked about how to promote kindness. Law art teacher Mrs. Murphy, wanted to spread the kindness that was shown to them when they needed it most.

“It’s important to remind you of what it means to be a good person what it’s like to care for other people just the be a better person in general,” junior Kindness Club member Nisali Fernando said.

There was also a booth set up in memory of former Law student Laura Gonzalez, who passed away last year. Those at the booth were just happy to be a part of the event and celebrate the lives of two of the friends and classmates.

“We wanted to prevent suicide prevention and honor our loss,” Law senior Amita Sastry said. “Being able to remember her at this event means a lot to us.”

One of the highly-anticipated events of the day, the second annual Peace, Love, and Music From Maren kickball tournament, kicked off at 10 a.m. on the softball field.

The tournament consisted of 23 teams, each made up of at least six people including two girls, which were mostly comprised of Law students ranging from freshmen to seniors. The bracket was set up with five rounds, the first two consisting of games lasting five minutes, the third round lasting seven minutes, the semifinals lasting ten minutes, and the final lasting ten minutes as well.

“[The tournament is] just some good old-fashioned recess fun…like I’m back in elementary school,” said Law senior Nolan Beardsley of the eventual tournament winners The Kickballerz.

The tournament was overseen and run by Law staff with Mr. Young and Mr. McPartland taking turns pitching, Mr. Ragaini as catcher/umpire, Mr. Sarullo, Mr. Kulenych, and Mr. Bainer as umpires, and Mr. Boynton as the day’s exuberant announcer.

While a day for fun, tensions ran high all throughout the games with collisions on the basepaths, diving catches, slides (even though they were not allowed), lots of strategy, and big kicks into the outfield. Along with the intensity, most teams brought a sense of formality with some teams donning matching shirts, headbands, eye black, and even some players opted for cleats to help them dig into the field’s dirt basepaths.

With each team bringing their A game as soon as they stepped out onto the field it was a spectacle for all those on hand to watch.

Last year’s tournament winners Recess All-Stars lost a thriller in overtime to Balls & Dolls, in which the objective was to see who could kick the ball and have it land closest to the cone, as Balls & Dolls kick landed closer to the cone than the All-Stars’ kick which saw the upset complete.

With all teams confident in their abilities it was always going to be a closely-contested tournament with each star-studded team putting their best foot forward to edge closer to the coveted championship trophy.

After an exciting day of play and fun, the Kickballerz came to reap the spoils of victory after defeating the Dirty D’s in the final. The Kickballerz, whose roster consisted of Erin Saley, Destin Johnson, Nolan Beardsley, Paige Szygiel, Laura Dulin, and Jess Centore, had a strong run of play throughout the tournament and came out on top.

“It felt good to win knowing we were underdogs coming in,” said Johnson, a Law senior.

While the spirit of competition was high, the tournament ended up bringing the community together while providing some fun for all those involved, whether they be playing, officiating, or just simply watching.

“It’s a great day to remember Maren and it was fun to play in the kickball tournament, it brings people together,” said Law alum Tyler Curtin.

With a great turnout this year, PLM attendees will be hoping the kickball tournament is a staple of the event for years to come.

“The kickball tournament was such a fun event to be a part of,” Kulenych said. “We had players of all ages, a lot of close games, and everyone had a blast.”

Another major aspect of PLM is the music played throughout the day. Local artists and even students perform at the event to provide song and dance for the event. To kick off the day, the choir sang a show tune medley.

“I think the music is very important,” said history teacher Ms. Mannion. “The music keeps people dances and singing and brings back memories for people and it’s really important. It is peace love and music.”

The music had a great variety with songs for everyone to enjoy.

“I think that it’s nice that there is a variety and that it’s for all different ages,” said alumni Haley Palmer. “There was rock and roll for the parents and rapping for the younger kids and it’s all positive music.”

There were 12 bands that volunteered their time and talent throughout the day, headlined by the Rum Runners. Seniors Max Caserta, Anna Downs, and Bobby Phong were among the performers, as well as alumni Kira Topalian.

“I had a great time,” Phong said. “It was good representing for Maren and Laura because Laura was a good friend of mine.”

Law alum Jeremy Doucette agreed.

“The music is very enjoyable and is a nice background for the event, its keeps up the real social mood and keeps everyone’s spirits up,” Doucette said.

All in attendance said that that had a great day honoring an amazing life.

“I’m from Sandy Hook, so I get it,” said Newtown resident Judy Byron. “It’s a great idea and it’s a great way to make people remember and not forget and that make people all over become more proactive because of activities like this.”

English teacher Mr. Nigretti said, “My favorite part of all of this is that it’s for Maren, but it gets everyone to come together and forget about all the petty stuff that really doesn’t matter and that is what this day is about.”

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