North Haven Football Spring Brawl supports Nate Gagne


By By Dan Fappiano • 06/12/2022 11:03 PM EST • Last Updated 06/13/2022 12:09 AM

For the City of North Haven, the football team’s annual Spring Brawl fundraiser has become a way for people in the community to give back to someone in need. This year, while overcoming many obstacles, North Haven succeeded in raising nearly $20,000 to support three-year-old Nate Gagné.

Gagné, the son of Laura and Scott Gagné, is currently battling cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that primarily affects the lungs and can lead to breathing difficulties. Scott Gagné graduated from North Haven in 2002 and still lives in town with his family. North Haven head coach Anthony Sagnella remembered him when Scott was a student. When Sagnella and her coaching staff heard about Nate, they decided that the Gagne family would be the beneficiaries of proceeds from this year’s Spring Brawl.

There were tears for Scott and Laura Gagne when they heard the news. Scott said North Haven had no way of supporting the community like that when he was in high school. Watching the town band together to help their son Nate showed just how much everyone in the community cares for each other.

“When we got the call from Coach Sagnella, my wife Laura and I didn’t know what to say. Then came some questions and some tears,” Scott Gagné said. “Nate loved going to high school and meeting the coaches and seniors Seeing the community come together and volunteer their time for the North Haven football team and our son means the world to us.

This year’s Spring Brawl marked the 18th time North Haven hosted the event, although it was very different from previous years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) canceled spring football. Therefore, Coach Sagnella and North Haven Athletic Director Steve Blumenthal met with the CIAC to discuss how they could run the Spring Brawl this year.

The answer was that the school couldn’t hold practices and North Haven couldn’t wear the Nighthawks sticker on their jerseys. To solve the jersey problem, Ranfone Training Systems in Hamden donated jerseys for the whole team.

To help develop the players, the North Haven Youth Football program stepped in to lend a hand. The young coaches held a three-day camp with the North Haven coaches to learn how they coach their players. From there, the youth coaches organized a camp to help the players get up to speed.

Sal DeMaio is currently president of North Haven Youth Football. When Sagnella contacted the league, DeMaio said all board members agreed that they would do whatever they could to help. They purchased insurance for all players and worked with parents and others, like the North Haven Fire Department, to help set up concessions for the game.

While helping organize the Spring Brawl, DeMaio began to see how much the event meant to the city of North Haven. Although a football game may take place, DeMaio said everyone understands that the Spring Brawl is much more than just a sporting event.

“As Coach Sagnella says a lot, the game isn’t really about football. It’s become so much more. It’s something that helps bind the community together,” DeMaio said. down and raise a ton of money. It really shows that it’s bigger than the sport. I don’t know many other sports that do something like this. Our participation shows that our community is really involved. This was a great experience to live and participate in.

Spring Brawl 2022 took place on June 10. While the game is usually played at Vanacore Field, due to a remodel, this year’s game was played on the grass field at North Haven Middle School. As was the case in previous years, the players who participated in the game were divided into two teams, Maroon and White. Both teams were coached by senior graduates of North Haven’s football program.

The white team was coached by MJ DeVilliers, Sebastian Derubeis, Stephen DiCristina, Jake Langner, Jimmy Gough and Leo Kattis. The Maroon team coaches were Matt Dodge, Brendan Jooss, Anthony Cavaliere, Luca Boyle, Matthew Cocco, Kieran Kelly and Cole DeCusati.

Team White came away with a 12-7 win in this year’s Spring Brawl. Jeffrey Karavas, one of next season’s senior captains, was among the athletes who played in the game. Karavas will share captaincy with Michael Masto, Brian Lastomirsky and Salvatore DeMaio, who is the son of Sal DeMaio.

Karavas said he enjoyed preparing for the match alongside youth coaches who had worked with members of the squad before. He added that it was fun to be coached by his former teammates. However, more than anything else, Karavas and his teammates enjoyed meeting Nate Gagne and felt honored to support him in any way they could.

“It was great. It was great to help Nate Gagne and learn more about who he was. He has so much energy. He was always running around. It was great to talk to him and throw the ball with him. He was running around, having fun,” Karavas said. “The community came together to support him. We raised almost $20,000 for him. help Nate.

The Spring Brawl was originally conceived by Coach Sagnella and two 2004 graduates, Teddy Keyes and Charles Reither, as a way to make spring football more fun. Over time, the event grew and grew into what it is today. Sagnella always wanted a leadership project for incoming seniors. With the Spring Brawl, Sagnella has found a way to help grow her program, while also giving the people of North Haven a way to show their generosity.

“This little thing started in the locker room 20 years ago. Suddenly everyone in the area knows what Spring Brawl means,” Sagnella said. “I didn’t want to let him die. It has become too important. It really helps our seniors to give back to the community and use their football title to help someone else. It became a big thing.

Prior to the game, the senior North Haven 2022 team worked to find sponsors for the event. They also went out into the community, seeking to spread the word and raise funds for Nate and the Gagné family. During the game, the North Haven cheerleaders and PA announcer came out to help. Additionally, all eight officials were volunteers from the City of North Haven.

After coaching and teaching in North Haven for the past 25 years, Coach Sagnella was not surprised at the impact this year’s Spring Brawl had on the North Haven community. Despite all the obstacles, many people from different organizations did their best to participate. All of these efforts raised approximately $19,000 for Nate Gagne and his family, marking the highest total of any Spring Brawl in its history.

“It takes a village to build a program with all the complexity and components of football. It takes a lot of help and a lot of support. North Haven has always embraced that,” Sagnella said. “The Spring Brawl embodies that support and enthusiasm that the city has, not just for football, but for doing something good. They come together for a worthy cause. I never cease to be amazed at the generosity of people The centerpiece of it all was three-year-old Nathan.


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