Tenth annual soccer game honors memory of PFC Jeff Braun

By Lisa Stone - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Wed., Aug. 14, 2013
The players in the Jeff Braun Memorial Soccer Game. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

The 10th annual Jeff Braun Memorial Soccer Game came to Stafford High School on Saturday, Aug. 10, as a memorial tribute to Braun and as a way to support his dream.

Jeff Braun was born in Honduras and adopted by the Braun family of Stafford when he was only 6 months old. As Jeff grew up, he told people that he wanted to help the other children in Honduras. His vision for an orphanage started when he was a preteen. He wanted to be able to help the Honduran children by giving them the best life that they could have. Jeff graduated from Stafford High School in 2003 and went into the Army. He told all of his friends and family that when he returned from the service, he was going to start the orphanage. Unfortunately, PFC Jeff Braun never made it home. He was killed in Iraq on Dec. 12, 2003.

All of Jeff’s loved ones didn’t want his dream to die with him, so they started the orphanage in his name. To date, they have raised more than $140,000. They have built the orphanage and filled it with 13 orphans as well as a Connecticut family of four: Mark and Amy Coats, along with their two children, live in the home. The children are home-schooled until they reach high school. Honduran children will be more successful in society if they attend a Honduran high school. The Coats run the orphanage, and one local Honduran woman helps out during the day.

The group wants to build another home for orphans, and is now asking for donations to accomplish this task. “We have raised $140,000 by fundraisers that are sponsored by Pre-School of the Arts and Family Academy of Tolland and Ellington, Westford Congregational Church, The Golden Gavel of Enfield and Simon Says in Stafford Springs,” said Susan Leavitt. Leavitt and her husband, John, own The Pre-School of the Arts as well as Family Academy of Tolland and Ellington. They both knew Jeff as a young child. “He was a sports nut, particularly soccer. Many of his teammates are out on the field right now,” said Susan Leavitt. “He also loved to sing. I was his music teacher in the Stafford schools. I remember looking at this young child just beaming from ear to ear as he would sing. I knew he was a special child. Later, he got involved with school plays. He was a great person.”

“Jeff was my very best friend,” said Travis Gagnon. “We would hang out all the time. He had a great sense of humor and loved to laugh. I really miss him and am proud to help make his dream come true. I am going to Honduras with 14 other people on Aug. 16. We are building a playscape for the children of the orphanage. We will be taking all of the donations that the people have brought to the game with us to Honduras.”

Gagnon’s sister, Lauren, said, “Jeff was the funniest, nicest guy you would ever want to meet. I am so happy that we raised over $1,000 by doing this event.”

To help the group build another orphanage, as well as to maintain the existing one, go online to www.HopeChildrensHome.org, or call Lauren Gagnon at 860-830-8336 or Susan Leavitt at 860-836-0394.

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