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Elwood ‘sportacular’ event honors late teacher

Members of the Szokoli and Romaine families gathered

Members of the Szokoli and Romaine families gathered at Harley Avenue Primary School in Elwood to celebrate the life of first-grade teacher Mary Kate Szokoli, who died of an epileptic seizure in December. (June 15, 2012) Credit: Michael Cusanelli

More than 800 members of the Elwood community came out Friday to honor Mary Kate Szokoli, a teacher at Harley Avenue Primary School and cheerleading coach at John Glenn Knights High School who died in December of an epilepsy-induced seizure.

The inaugural “Szokoli Sportacular” was organized by co-workers and in part intended to raise money for a college fund for Szokoli’s two young daughters, Camryn, 4, and Riley, 2.

Friends, co-workers and relatives described Szokoli as energetic, positive, and always ready to take on new challenges.

“She had a smile on her face every day. Nothing got her down,” said Karen Koliadko, the principal at Harley. “She never had a bad day. She found the silver lining, always.”

Teachers sold baked goods and fruit during the festival, and several local businesses donated food, drinks and entertainment for the children. There were also several raffles and carnival games.

The school had raised over $5,000 dollars before the event had even begun, and organizer hoped to raise about $10,000 dollars by the end of the night.

The fundraiser centered on sporting events such as hockey and kickball, as well as dancing, in honor of Szokoli’s love of athletics.

“We’re here to celebrate her life,” said Keri McKenna, a teacher and friend of Szokoli. “We’ve gotten overwhelming generosity and support from the entire community.”

Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland presented Szokoli’s father, Jerry Romaine, with a proclamation in honor of her dedication and service to the Elwood community.

“This is incredible for us,” said Romaine, 59. It’s very uplifting for us to see this.”

Romaine said his daughter, whose husband, Bryan, was also in attendance, would be happy to see such a large show of support from the community she loved.

“We know she’s here,” he said. “With all these people gathered here in her name, how could she not be?”

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