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Stories Of Giving

Colter Abely Achievement Fund

It's All About The Kids ... And Colter

Colter Abely liked to wrestle, he liked to golf, he liked to smile and he liked to laugh.

His tragic death, in a car accident on the Massachusetts Turnpike just two years after his 2010 graduation from Xavier, took all that away. Yet, in death, his memory lives on in so many ways.

His parents, Brian and Chaleen Abely, established the Colton Abely Achievement Fund at the Community Foundation of Middlesex County. The fund benefits the wrestling programs at Xavier and Middletown. A graduating senior at each high school also receives $1,000 toward the college of his choice.

There also is a four-day wrestling camp in the summer in Middletown from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day for about 40 children ages 9, 10 and 11. The camp is free, with Coach Mike Cunningham (Xavier) and Coach Mark Fong (Middletown) as the leaders. Fong coached Abely as a youth while Cunningham coached Abely in his high school days.

“The camp gives the kids the opportunity to experience all the value that the sport of wrestling has to offer young people,” Cunningham said.

Xavier and Middletown seniors also help out as mentors, which helps the high school students as much as the kids.

“Colter loved to teach the little ones how to wrestle,” Brian said.

The Xavier weight room, another important place for Colter, is dedicated in his memory. And in the summer there is a golf tournament that benefits the fund.

“Brian has always been a great supporter of the wrestling program and of the school,” Cunningham said. “He has always been very generous with his time and resources to help drive the overall mission of the school.”

Brian and Chaleen knew they wanted to do something to honor their son’s life. With wrestling being one of Colter’s passion, this is the route they took. One that has touched the lives of many already.

“Doing what we have done has been tremendous in the healing process,” Brian said. “You raise your kids and want to pass on your view of life, morals, integrity, honesty, so they can sustain themselves as they make their way through life because life is hard. I lost that ability with Colter for him to carry on, but through the community foundation the legacy of my son continues long after I’m gone. It’s not about me; it’s about him and his legacy because he’s not around to do it.”

Wrestling was something that changed Colter’s life. “I saw what it did for him,” his father says. Brian says his son got the “wrestling religion” and learned things about life through wrestling. And now kids will be touched by Colter “in one way, shape or form even if they don’t know it. What better way to make it through.”

Fong remembers Colter as “a fun-loving kid … when we started I think he needed wrestling to help him focus in school, have goals and work toward those goals. I think the sport of wrestling helped Colter get through high school and keep him on track, and I think that’s why Mr. Abely has been so supportive of the Xavier and Middletown programs. He saw how it helped his son and wants us to reach as many kids as possible. We really appreciate what the Abelys have done and they are great people.”

Cynthia Clegg, President & CEO of the Community Foundation of Middlesex County, used the word incredible a few times in talking about Brian and Chaleen Abely.

“They are incredible and admirable in taking a horrific thing that happened and making lemonade out of lemons. It has been simply amazing,” Clegg said. “It’s all about students and young folks for Brian and Chaleen. They thought long and hard about how to honor Colter’s memory and type of individual he was and what he cared about. The thoughtfulness in setting up the fund was incredible.”

Clegg has been to the summer wrestling camp for kids a few times.

“Seeing 40 kids – and for free -- learning life skills, would have Colter’s approval, and it brings a smile to Brian and Chaleen’s faces,” Clegg said.

Brian, of course, stops by the camp, too. Last summer he stirred up a little something, asking the kids if they wanted to see Coach Cunningham and Coach Fong wrestle. So the two coaches did for a bit. That undoubtedly would have brought a smile to Colter’s face.

“Besides being a successful wrestler at Xavier, he was always that teammate who was there to pick up his fellow teammates when they needed it,” Cunningham remembers.

“And always had a smile on his face.”

For information on the fund, go to https://bit.ly/2E3LiDO

Stories of giving will appear periodically. Please email associate communications director Jeff Otterbein at jotterbein@xavierhighschool.org with ideas.

Ray & Pauline Sullivan Foundation

$15,000 Grant To Xavier

The co-trustees for the Ray & Pauline Sullivan Foundation have awarded a grant for $15,000 to Xavier High School to support tuition assistance. The foundation primarily gives to Roman Catholic charities and educational institutions in the Diocese of Norwich.

The foundation was awarded the Clairvaux Medal from St. Bernard High School in Montville at the Saints Gala last year. Sullivan’s generosity started in giving to St. Bernard. After his wife died in 1964, he donated $100,000 to the high school for a chapel in her memory.

In 1972, he started a trust with $3 million and now the foundation has about $16 million.

St. Bernard sent along a bio of Sullivan that was researched and written by Dana Williams (Director of Advancement at Saint Bernard) and James McGuire, chairman of the foundation's board of trustees.

According to the bio, Sullivan was attending Catholic school when his mother died. He was only 10 and he started to miss school time. A Sister of Mercy helped tutor him, though, and he graduated from Pawcatuck High at the age of 14. In 1912, he married Pauline and graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Ray Sullivan eventually became chief operating officer at Fisher Body Company in Detroit, which was making car bodies for various places, including Ford. In 1946 he was hired by Henry Ford as a vice president. He retired in 1959. Sullivan died in 1973 at the age of 84.

John and Kate Zampini Scholarship

“My Parents Would Be Thrilled”

The John and Kate Zampini Scholarship Award has been created with a gift of $5,000. Starting in the fiscal year 2019-20, there will be an annual award of $1,000 each year for five consecutive years. The award will go to an incoming or current Xavier High School student whose need and merit qualify him for financial support as determined by school leadership.

“Both of my parents didn’t go to college and they always stressed how important it was,” said Linda Tomaiuolo, the daughter of John and Kate Zampini, and an art teacher in New Britain. “Both have passed and I thought it would be nice to start a scholarship in their name.”

Beyond someone in need, Tomaiuolo would like to see the scholarship go to “someone who is not a straight A student but works hard and has a great work ethic. My parents had a great work ethic. I know they would be thrilled helping a student.”

The extended Zampini family has a long connection to a Catholic high school education. Tomaiuolo went to Mercy. Her son Max is a junior at Xavier. An older cousin went to Xavier and her cousin’s son, Matt, is a 2011 Xavier graduate.

Vance Family Endowed Scholarship Fund In Honor Of David. E Vance Class of 1992 and Christopher H. Vance Class of 1994

A Convert Lives Out His Faith

David Vance converted to Catholicism in his mid 20s. He smiles when he thinks of dating his wife and her saying, “If you’re going out with me, you’re going to 6’ o’clock Mass.”

That changed his life.

Giving back, he said, starts with being a devout Catholic, the fact that the school did well by his two sons, David ’92, and Chris ’94, and “since I was a convert I never had the chance to go to a school like Xavier. I am sure I would have enjoyed it.”

Vance, who also had two daughters go to Mercy, lives in Mystic. He’s retired now and his wife Gina died in 2017. Gina was a longtime school administrator in Glastonbury. That summer he started thinking about what he was doing with his life, was driving by Xavier and stopped in.

Out of this came a scholarship fund that he started to honor his sons, and now his sons also will be giving to the fund.

Vance stays active. He bikes and hikes. He is a volunteer at Enders Island, a Catholic Retreat Center in Mystic.

His faith continues to sustain him and certainly is a reason he is giving back to Xavier.

“I can’t imagine going through life without the comfort of knowing our faith and feeling the presence of God and trusting that God is always there to support us and love us,” Vance said. “Challenged people with no faith, I don’t know how they get through the day.”

Vance said his faith has made him a better human being.

“It has enabled me to view people differently, in a much more positive way,” Vance said.

By the end of the year there is expected to be $25,000 in the fund and distributions would start in the 2018-19 academic year.

Contact Advancement

(860) 346-7735

Elizabeth Whitty


Director of Advancement

Greg Jaskot


Associate Director of Advancement