Extraordinary human achievement is the sparkle that lights John Holt’s professional life.
Fans around the state can see the joy that sports bring WFSB Channel 3’s sports anchor and reporter both on television and at local events, and the passion he exhibits from relating the success of others.
Holt’s celebration of life, however, has a tragic side.
His brother Lindsey committed suicide on the eve of Thanksgiving in 1999. He and his family endured the ramifications that manifest themselves in the hearts and minds of those left behind.
In his desire to help others who suffer the same fate, he continues to raise awareness through a fundraiser that features one of life’s sweetest pleasures.
For the benefit of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Holt is staging the sixth annual Scooper Sunday in conjunction with the Eastern League baseball game between the New Britain Rock Cats and Portland Sea Dogs on July 27 at New Britain Stadium.
“[Lindsey’s suicide] gutted my family in many ways,” said Holt, 42, of Longmeadow, Mass. “Scooper Sunday has been one way for me to move forward, remembering my brother, but also raising a modest amount of money to support the lifesaving work being done by AFSP.
“Myself and other volunteers who been impacted by suicide loss organize and work Scooper Sunday every year.”
A tent adjacent to the front gate with the giant wooden ice cream cone out front will serve as Connecticut’s largest temporary ice cream dispensary, with seven vendors scooping out their signature frozen confections from 12:05 p.m. until about 4. Fans can eat as much as they’d like.
From the ashes of suicide’s lingering despair emerge the precious smiles of children young and old, and for a cause that’s often overlooked when it comes to the many that seek our attention. The AFSP is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy. It reaches out to people with the mental disorders that can lead to suicide and by those impacted by the loss of a loved one.
AFSB’s mission and Holt’s sincerity inspired Donna Torre, president/owner of Praline’s Ice Cream headquarters in Wallingford’s North Plains Industrial Park. She has become one of the event’s leading supporters.
“John came to me about the idea to duplicate the big festival in Boston,” said Torre, whose ice cream is available at two Wallingford locations — Praline’s in Staples Plaza on Route 5 and Mr. D’s downtown — in addition to the Westfield Mall in Meriden.
“There isn’t any organization I know of that brings ice cream manufacturers together, so I thought it would be a nice idea to get involved,” Torre said. “It’s a very worthy cause and everybody has smiles on their faces. What better way to bring smiles than with ice cream.”
Torre will be bringing four flavors to the event, predominantly Beez Kneez, a blend of vanilla ice cream with graham crackers and chocolate crunch. Beez Kneez is the two-time defending champion in the Silver Scoop voting, emblematic of the event’s most popular flavor.
Torre and her late husband Joe began Praline’s 30 years ago. The company now has 12 locations.
“Praline’s has been fabulous with their commitment to Scooper Sunday,” Holt said. “This is their fifth year.”
Others scooping for the cause are The Farmer’s Cow, Rita’s of Rocky Hill, The Frozen Gnome (Burlington), Scottie’s Frozen Custard (Colchester), Turkey Hill and The Big Dipper (Prospect).
Holt praised former Rock Cats owner Bill Dowling for providing him a forum to launch the event. Scooper Sunday has raised almost $35,000 to date.
Combination tickets for the game and ice cream social can be purchased through Holt by writing him at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (860) 244-170. General admission tickets are $10 and reserved seats $15. Those who have purchased tickets directly from the box office in advance and would like to indulge in some ice cream will need to come to the tent and have their hand stamped for $6.