Friday, November 3, 2023

Windham shows support for Maine community suffering from tragedy

By Matt Pascarella

After Maine’s deadliest mass shooting rocked the community of Lewiston and the country, all over the nation people have tried to comfort the town. Closer to home, RSU 14 Grounds Coordinator Michael DiDonato wanted to show support from one community to another in the wake of these horrific events. Windham High School’s stadium athletic field, where many sports take place and the Windham community spends much of its time cheering on our various teams, “LEWISTON” is stenciled across the mid-field.

Windham Grounds Coordinator Michael DiDonato
stenciled 'LEWISTON' in the midfield of Windham
High School's stadium athletic field after the mass
shooting that took place on Wednesday, Oct. 25. 
DiDonato finished the stencil on Friday, Oct. 27 in
support of Lewiston from one community to another.
“I was hoping, as I am sure many were, that a tragedy like this would never happen in the state of Maine,” said DiDonato. “Now that it has, it is more important than ever to show support to those affected. We all want to help but may feel helpless in what to do, so I thought this could be a way Windham as a community could show their support for our neighbors.”

The stencil was made with a robot called a Turf Tank, which is a new device that DiDonato has used since August of this year. Using the Turf Tank, it took him about 30 minutes to stencil “LEWISTON” in the middle of the field, it then took another hour for DiDonato to fill it in with blue paint and white trim. The stencil was completed on Friday, Oct. 27.

“Our district’s amazing grounds crew, led by Mike DiDonato, shows how we stand together,” said Windham resident Krista White Gerrity. Their tribute to the Lewiston tragedy, shared by so many people, helped to strengthen our support. Bad things aren’t supposed to happen here. After this week, the world knows Maine, but for all the wrong reasons. The light during this tragedy is the love that flows through our communities. The support we have for each other is stronger than ever.”

In past years, DiDonato has paid tribute by stenciling the varsity letters of Windham’s senior athletes on the field, he also honored beloved former WHS administrator Deb McAfee when she was diagnosed with cancer. DiDonato says he thinks it’s important to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, so he always does the pink ribbons as well as pink paint on some of the fields during October.

After stenciling “LEWISTON” on the WHS athletic field, DiDonato then posted his work to Facebook, with the caption “we are one” and his post received an outpouring of support and positive comments.

According to DiDonato, while Maine is a large state, it’s a small community and he says that when one part of the state is affected, it affects all of us.

“I think it was a nice gesture on Mike’s behalf to do this,” said RSU 14 Athletic Director Rich Drummond. “It’s a very sad and tragic situation and it’s a sign of support for that community during a very tough time. It’s nice that we have helped garner support in our community for the Lewiston/Auburn area.”

The “LEWISTON” lettering will be left up for the remainder of the fall sports season. DiDonato will repaint it and it should hold over until the spring season.

“I was very proud and honored to be a part of such a great community,” said Windham resident Dick Drapeau. “Maine is a very small town. We were all affected by what happened in Lewiston that day. Well done Windham High School … what an exceptional thing to do.”

Upon seeing DiDonato’s work, many surrounding Maine communities including Gorham High School, Gorham Youth Football, and South Portland have reached out to him to show their support for Lewiston on their fields.

“When I first saw “LEWISTON” on our home athletic field it gave me a great sense of pride to be part of this community,” said Windham resident Maureen Flaherty Janvrin. “I have always felt a strong sense of community within Windham but every tragedy we experience we come together and show support in every way; this exemplifies what our community represents. As a community I know we all hold our loved ones a little closer and tighter; we will continue to support the Lewiston community as they begin to process grief and healing.” <

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