With Columbus Day weekend as a backdrop and a sun-splashed day providing the perfect setting, it initially seemed no different than any other Saturday on any college campus around the country.
But October 6, 2007 was different. Easton Appreciation Day was taking place on the campus of Stomehill (Mass.) College, and it was hard not to notice. Earlier in the week, student-athletes dressed in full Stonehill mascot garb,stood at the entrance of the college and waved at passersby on the busy street that the welcomes everyone to this College of 2,000 students. Flyers had gone home to all students enrolled in the public school system, alerting them that the athletic department at Stonehill was throwing a party for everyone who lived in the town.
On that Saturday, people came in droves - teenagers in their normal packs, families out for the day, 20- and 30-somethings looking to have a good time - to celebrate Easton Appreciation Day.
Ace, the loveable Stonehill mascot, was out in full force, helping kids learn how to perfect a slapshot, or the right spot to grip a curveball, or the spot to put your fingers in order to get the precise rotation on your jumpshot. Not only was Ace there, but so were so many student-athletes and coaching staffs also giving instruction, laughing and interacting with all the people who take time out of their lives to support the Skyhawks.
"We saw this as a way to say thank you to the Easton community for all their support over the years," said Director of Community Engagement Pat Boen. "These people come to our games and support the efforts of our student-athletes and we thank them for all that they do."
Even the town's leaders were involved. With the help of the school superintendent and the fire department, a fire truck was brought to campus for everyone to get up close and personal with.
The centerpiece of the day was the resurgent football team's matchup with St. Anselm. At 3-1, the Skyhawks had exceeded most everyone's expectations under first-year head coach Rob Talley. After winning just eight games in the previous four seasons, Stonehill was off to its best start in nearly a decade. Just a year ago, the Skyhawks drew 500 fans to their Columbus Day weekend game. With Easton Appreciation Day pushing the train, 1,700 people passed through the gates to watch Stonehill earn a 56-7 win.
Senior Tony Camarota, an intern in the College's facilities and operations office, did a great deal of work to help organize the event, but once the festivities began, he was out on the field recording two sacks for the Stonehill defense.
"Tony's initiative and drive to put on a first-class event was evident from the start," said Assistant Director of Athletics Nick Smith. "He did a tremendous job making sure every detail was perfect and it showed in the turnout of people."
This wasn't the first time the athletic department had extended its hand to the town in which the college resides. The college's volleyball and football programs have its "GameDay Buddies" program that invites academically excelling Easton students to campus. They give the kids full access to the players prior to the game, even allowing them to take part in the starting lineups. In addition, at halftime of the football game, kids are brought out onto the field with their "buddy's" jersey on and their name is announced over the loudspeaker.
More programs have been planned, including the town little league teams being invited to an upcoming baseball doubleheader.