CLARK, NJ — The Clark community is showing its support for the Nelson family after their daughter, Caitlin, a junior at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, died three days after choking during a Greek Life pancake eating contest at the college on March 30. The school is located in Fairfield, Conn.
According to Fairfield police, nursing students and first responders tried to save Nelson and brought her to a local hospital. She was in critical condition. On March 31 she was transferred to a New York City hospital where she died on April 4.
Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso and members of the community will come together to support the family during this difficult time. The family is already well known by the community after facing a previous tragedy.
James Nelson, Caitlin’s father, was a Port Authority police officer who was killed while rescuing people from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The funeral was held at James Nelson Memorial Park. They attend a memorial at that location each year.
After the loss of her father, Caitlin and her family were consoled by the community. The street they live on was renamed James Nelson Way. In 2012, Caitlin read names of victims at the Sept. 11 memorial in New York City.
Sacred Heart students filled an evening Mass at a college campus chapel in honor of Nelson and held a candlelight vigil after the service. Bonaccorso knew Caitlin from his daughter who was the same age.
After losing her father, Caitlin spent time helping others in need of compassion. She interned at the Resiliency Center in Connecticut, which focuses on individual and community healing for children and adults affected by the shooting at Sandy Hook School. She worked as a camp counselor for Sister Pat’s Cancer Camp and Camp Sea Stars for the Children of Newtown, according to a fundraising website posted by her sorority, Kappa Delta.
The page says that she participated in Habitat for Humanity and knitted hats for premature babies at Overlook Hospital when she was in high school. She served as vice president of community service for the sorority and studied social work in school.
The sorority is selling bracelets that read “Caitlin Gives.” They plan to donate a percentage of the proceeds to the group’s ShamROCK the Runway event, a fundraiser to benefit Prevent Child Abuse America and the St. Joseph’s Parenting Center in Connecticut.
The Nelson family decided to donate Caitlin’s organs. They are requesting donations be made in Caitlin’s memory to Sister Pat’s Kids Camp at St. Helen’s or to Camp Sea Stars North, care of the Resiliency Center of Newtown.