NEWINGTON - Ciara McDermott enjoyed art and poetry, but was never really into sports. Her former colleagues, family and friends laugh about this when they get together for the yearly basketball game at Newington High School that carries her name.
The 14th annual Ciara McDermott Basketball Classic is set to take place this Friday, March 29. The three-point contest begins at 6 p.m. and round robin style games will start around 6:30.
The Newington Police Officer and NHS School Resource Officer was killed in a domestic violence incident in November 2005. In 2006, her loved ones established a scholarship fund in her honor and the Basketball Classic as a fundraiser.
“For a small, close-knit department it was an extremely difficult time for us,” retired Newington Police Detective Michael Rugens remembered this week. “It hadn’t even been a year since we lost Officer Peter Lavery when Ciara was killed. A program like this kind of helped with the healing process for us and the school system, who equally felt the same loss we did. The event was a nice way to bring the students, teachers and officers together to honor her memory.”
McDermott had such a powerful impact at NHS, Rugens said, that at least four alumni have named their daughters ‘Ciara’ since she passed away. She was the school’s very first resource officer in 2001 and worked there up until her death, altering the course of life for many troubled teens.
“She met the kids at their level,” Biology teacher Christa Cote said. “She was a person kids could go to if they needed help or were in trouble. She was always personable, always had a smile on her face.”
McDermott and Cote grew to be best friends. Cote is the director of the Basketball Classic. A board of volunteers helps to plan and facilitate the event, with proceeds going toward two or more $1,500 scholarships for seniors at NHS pursuing college, trade school or otherwise furthering their education, with the ultimate goal of serving others.
Since its inception, 29 students have been awarded scholarships.
“The annual tournament is a tribute to her work, bringing together students and police to honor her memory,” Detective Katie Kelliher said. “It is a chance for the officers and the teachers to have a little fun as well as interact and meet members of our community in a positive way.”
Kelliher and McDermott attended the Police Academy at the same time and reunited years later at NPD. McDermott began working at the department in 1998. After that first year she was assigned to patrol duty in the south end of Newington, third shift, with Rugens.
“We worked closely together for two years covering the midnight shift and we became very close friends,” he recalled. “She was an outstanding police officer.”
Prior to her post at the high school she worked with at-risk children through Newington Human Services.
Between NHS and NPD, many of those who knew McDermott are no longer there. Still, they hear stories about her from those who did.
“It’s been such a long time now most of these young guys on the force don’t know who she was, but they’re still happy to give back and help our effort,” Cote pointed out. “It’s a great family night. We encourage everyone to come and watch and laugh and be a part of a good cause.”
Earlier this week at least 60 participants were registered, 40 of them students, 10 police officers and 10 teachers or faculty members.
Pizza and snack concessions will be sold and prizes will be distributed at the door. Tickets are $5 in advance or $7 at the door. They can be purchased at NPD or NHS.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go:
WHAT: The 14th annual Ciara McDermott Basketball Classic
WHEN: Friday, March 29 at 6 p.m.
WHERE: Newington High School, 605 Willard Ave.
HOW: Tickets are $5 in advance, $7 at the door