On Sunday, hundreds of people from all over the region, and beyond, gathered at to honor Greg Caron and take part in a basketball tournament for his benefit.
In addition to people from Ellington and the surrounding towns, some people even came a very long way.
Andrea Gumble, her mother, Charlotte Dwyer, and her niece, Erika Varano, came all the way from New Jersey to be part of the event. Gumble said that she was in a craft store near her home when she met Caron’s aunt. His aunt was getting supplies to make pins for her nephew and started telling Gumble his story.
Gumble said that when she was 18, she was hit by a car and almost had to amputate her leg. While she didn’t end up losing her leg, she could somewhat relate. That’s how it all began.
“She gave me her e-mail and her Facebook and then I found Jessica (Poulin), who was doing the basketball thing, so I friended her and we started talking,” Gumble said. “That’s how I got here.”
In addition to the injured leg, she said that the fact that people don’t realize what’s going on anywhere else but where they are made her want to help.
“That just touched my heart,” she said. “I want kids to understand. I want them to understand what these men do for us over there.”
Varano, 10, and a few other children wrote letters to Caron before Christmas. What did her letter say?
“Thank you for fighting for our country,” she said. “You’re a hero – we all wrote that in ours.”
Gumble and her mother are quilters and will be giving Caron a handmade quilt.
Even Sen. Richard Blumenthal came out to support the . During halftime of one of the games, he addressed the crowd.
“I tell you, I am really proud to be friends with the Caron family and I’m really proud to know Greg,” Blumenthal said. “He is one of the finest, most brave, and strongest human beings I have met, ever. Thank you for being here today, have a great time, and may the best team win.”
Sixteen teams participated in the single-elimination tournament, and there were several hard-fought games that went down to the wire. One game even went four overtime periods.
At the end of the day, the team known as “G-Unit” was crowned the winner. G-Unit defeated “No Free Layups,” the team that Caron’s brother, Jon, was a member of.
In a show of what the day was really about, G-Unit gave the championship trophy to Jon and his team so that it could be given to Greg.
In addition to the games, there was a bounce-Twister game, photo booth, raffle, music, and food. The food was provided by Maneely’s in South Windsor and .
Caron’s mother, Doreen, was amazed at how the event came together.
“It’s a miracle,” she said. “Ellington people are just awesome. Awesome. Everybody has come together. There are no words, it’s all in the heart. When I saw how many people were here and how long it went on, it was very inspirational.”
Sarah Richard, who organized the event with Poulin, thought the day went very well.
“I think it was fabulous,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for a better turnout, the volunteer support was huge, the town support was huge. It was awesome. It just went awesome.”
She said that the goal was $10,000 – including donation jars put around town, and the breakfast fundraiser in December – and she was hopeful that they would reach the goal.
“I think we have, but I don’t know yet,” Richard said.