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Hawk Lacrosse Players Support 15 For Life Foundation



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For the second year in a row Newtown High School’s lacrosse programs are partnering with the 15 For Life Foundation for designated games as players, coaches, parents, and other community members come together to support the foundation’s mission to open dialogue about depression and mental health.

Newtown’s Jeff Kavovit’s brother and lacrosse standout Rob Kavovit took his life at the age of 45 and left behind a wife and two children after battling silent depression. This tragedy prompted the family to start 15 For Life, which encourages people to shed the shame around needing help and strives to normalize the conversation around mental health by creating awareness so that their loss may help others.

Ticket sales, raffles, and donations at the April 12 Newtown versus Cheshire girls’ game at Blue & Gold Stadium brought in close to $2,000 to support 15 For Life. The boys’ lacrosse program will have its 15 For Life night on Saturday, May 11, when Brien McMahon of Norwalk visits Blue & Gold at 7 pm.

“Our family appreciates the support of our Newtown family,” Kavovit said. “We’re trying to open up dialogue and it’s a train that’s going to keep moving forward.”

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college athletes and it is Kavovit’s goal to prevent others from ending their lives. The website 15forlife.org notes that the foundation is “inspired by one man to save the lives of many.”

Maura Fletcher, coach of the NHS girls’ squad, noted that players need to be comfortable leaning on teammates, coaches, and parents alike when the going gets tough.

“I think it’s really important especially with kids at this age. There’s so much pressure on them to do well in school, and athletically, and with social media,” Fletcher said. “It’s okay not to be okay. You don’t have to be perfect all the time.”

Each lacrosse team has player representatives who lead in the efforts to ensure their teammates know they can talk with each other if necessary. Abby Ihlefeld and Rachael Albrecht represent the girls and spoke after their 10-8 win over Cheshire about the importance of open dialogue within the team.

“We just want to make sure everyone’s in a comfortable spot because we know it’s hard to speak up,” Ihlefeld said.

“It can be scary when you don’t really know who to talk to,” Albrecht added.

Although there are specific games in which money is raised for the foundation, the lacrosse players have the 15 For Life mission in mind throughout the spring. The girls have a custom lacrosse stick with the words “Mental Health Matters” on the shaft that is passed around at practices. The team member holding the stick has a turn to say what she is grateful for as a way to keep focused on positive aspects of life regardless of what might be going on.

Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at andyh@thebee.com.

Members of the Newtown and Cheshire lacrosse teams came together to help support the 15 For Life Foundation and its goal of normalizing conversation around mental health and depression. —photo courtesy Jeff Kavovit
Lacrosse players Abby Ihlefeld and Rachael Albrecht hold a custom stick honoring the 15 For Life Foundation. The stick is passed around by teammates who take turns speaking about what they are grateful for as a way to support the 15 For Life Foundation’s mission and memory of Rob Kavovit. —Bee Photo, Hutchison
Jeff Kavovit with 15 For Life game organizers/lacrosse parents Tricia Ruddy, Kelly Albrecht, and Joanne Ihlefeld. —photo courtesy Jeff Kavovit
The junior varsity team helped raise awareness and funds for 15 For Life. —photo courtesy Jeff Kavovit
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