The entire City of Methuen is proud of the Methuen High Girls Basketball team, who just returned from Mississippi, where they helped to rebuild a community ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Congratulations to Methuen High coach Karen McLaughlin, who spearheaded the effort. These young ladies have made Methuen proud.
From the Mississippi Press
Sunday, February 24, 2008
By JOSH JOHNSON
PASCAGOULA — What started out as a innocent visit to see a family member, turned into a year-long quest for one Massachusetts girls basketball team to help in Mississippi’s recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina.
When Karen McLaughlin decided to visit her son, Michael McLaughlin, last March in Biloxi while on winter break from her duties as a physical education teacher and girls varsity basketball coach at Methuen High school, little did she realize the visit would impact her life, and 16 of her players.
“I went back after I came down here my first time, and everyone asked how bad it was, and I said, “I can’t explain how bad it was,’ and that got me thinking we could do something to help,” Karen McLaughlin said.
Wanting to help the area out and not knowing where to start, Karen McLaughlin was told by Michael McLaughlin and his roommate, Resurrection boys basketball coach Chris Iaquinto, how after Katrina Boston College students helped with the clean-up. The students were part of the Alliance for Catholic Alliance program which awards graduate students a chance to earn their masters for free in return for a two-year stint volunteering at a Catholic School in the country. Michael McLaughlin and Iaquinto are both Boston College graduates, but are in Mississippi as teachers through Notre Dame’s ACE program.
“The more I thought about it, I thought if they could do it, why can’t we? ” Karen McLaughlin said.
However, the process to help took a lot of planning and hard work for McLaughlin and the team.
With approval from parents and the Methuen School Board, the 16 members of the basketball team raised money during the year through a car wash, yard work, collecting money at stores, sponsoring a comedy night, selling Boston Celtic tickets, and hosting a girls’ days and nights out, when parents could drop off their girls at gyms to play basketball and other games, to begin their quest to visit Mississippi. The team also got several donations from business to help it raise more than $20,000.
“We got the ball rolling, we got permisson from our school board to start fundraising. The girls raised over $20,000 to get us all down here — flights, car rentals and hotel,” McLaughin said.
The girls arrived on Feb. 13 and spent a week of their winter break helping rebuild two Biloxi houses, doing tasks such as tearing down ceilings, wall boards, painting and powerwashing. The experience gave the girls memories that will last a lifetime.
“I was really surprised the first time we came down here because there were a lot of things rebuilt more than I thought, and I was glad,” Methuen sophomore Rachael Condon said. “But, I was glad to help rebuild this area. It is something I will never forget.”
“I think this is a great experience to come down here for the less fortunate,” Methuen senior Jessi McCarthy said. “It goes to show me how grateful I am. This is something we didn’t want to pass up.”
However, the girls were not done helping out people from Mississippi. They also made a stop in Pascagoula.
With help from Iaquinto, McLaughlin and her team were able to practice during there the week for its Merrimack Valley Conference state tourament game against Malden High School on Tuesday night, but on one condition: They hold a free clinic for kids between third and seventh grade in Ressurection’s jump-start elementary basketball program.
Veterans of a weekly clinic in Methuen, the girls did not resist, and more than 56 kids in Resurrection’s jum-start recreation basketball league turned out at Resurrection High School Wednesday night.
“We hooked up with Chris, and he said we could have practice here because we have a state tournament game when we get back,” Karen McLaughlin said. “The idea of the clinic came out and we said sure we would stick around and put on the clinic for the kids.
“I asked if they would be interested because we just started an elementary program at Resurrection for young ages,” Iaquinto said. “They do that weekly in Massachusetts, so it really wasn’t a stretch. Being down here, a lot of people have come down here and spent their time and money and what not to try to help out this area. The girls did this on their break and have a game Tuesday. They deserve the spotlight.
“Our kids have love it. It has been great meeting these girls.”
The girls also enjoyed their last stop in Mississippi. They left Thursday morning for Massachusetts.
“It has been a lot of fun coaching kids that are new to us,” Condon said. “If I had a chance to come back down here again, I would jump on it.”