SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 28, 2013

Rivals unite in solidarity

Karen Andreas
The Salem News

---- — A sea of royal blue filled Miller field in Winthrop Saturday night. Danvers strong did not disappoint.

Neither did Winthrop.

The Vikings welcomed their football rival Falcons with open arms, honoring the life of teacher Colleen Ritzer, who died just days before at 24 years of age.

Winthrop went all out: a brief ceremony before the game, where its cheerleaders released pink balloons into the windy night air; no admission fee, instead collecting donations for the Miss Ritzer scholarship fund; a police escort to the town line for the departing DHS team buses.

It was an incredible show of support for the community of Danvers, where students and adults alike are reeling and grieving from an unspeakable loss of a young, beautiful teacher.

Thank you, Winthrop. You welcomed our kids and our town with incredible class.

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DHS Principal Sue Ambrozavitch was in the crowd at the chilly Saturday night football game. No one would have blamed her if she had stayed home and rested after what has surely been a most exhausting few days.

Not our Mrs. A.

She was there in the stands — a Falcons royal blue scarf draped around her neck — cheering her kids.

She is the epitome of a true leader and exceptional educator, and our town is blessed to have her at the helm of our high school.

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Football coaches are typically known for their rough, gruff exteriors and Hard Knox ways. But DHS head coach Sean Rogers is clearly much more than X’s and O’s.

Our head coach emailed his Falcons the day after Miss Ritzer’s death, addressing the tragedy and telling his team it was OK to grieve.

"Each and every single one of us will go through the grieving process differently. Whatever you are feeling is OK. You are allowed to feel the way you are feeling," Rogers wrote.

"... Just know that you all have family, teammates, and coaches that care for you deeply. Turn to one another for support and be there for the people that turn to you during senseless times like these."

Coaching young men comes with much responsibility. Yes, winning football games is important. We all want to win. But we also want to raise young men of character, and Rogers’ note to the team went a long way toward building strength and healing hearts.

Please know, Coach Rogers, that your players and their parents are very grateful for your sincere words to the team.

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Karen Andreas is publisher of The Salem News. She lives in Danvers, where her two sons play varsity football for the 6-and-1 Falcons.