Memorial fund makes contribution

NASHUA – Since members of the Morin family lost their son, Jeff, in a tragic automobile accident in April 1995, they have carried his memory forward by giving back to the city’s youth – that theme continued on Wednesday with plans for shade sails and artificial turf at a local playground.

In May 2012, Board of Aldermen members passed legislation to name the fields at Roby Park in the city’s south end the “Jeff Morin Fields at Roby Park.” Wednesday, city officials gathered beside the playground to announce improvements that will take place this summer.

Those improvements include installing shade sails and applying artificial turf, which will continue carrying Jeff Morin’s legacy forward. Jeff’s godmother, Jill Monahan, joined city officials in making this announcement. She spoke briefly on behalf of the family and the Jeff Morin Memorial Fund, which has contributed to various causes in Nashua that benefit the city’s youngest residents.

“Since the first scholarship awards in 1997, Jeff’s fund has gifted over $200,000 in scholarships to Nashua students who possess the characteristics that define Jeff,” Monahan said.

However, the fund goes beyond just providing these scholarships, also investing and donating to help the local parks and recreation programs since 2011. The fund has provided scholarships for 250 children to participate in parks and recreation summer programs.

Now, the Nashua Division of Public Works Parks and Recreation Department is the recipient of a $60,000 grant from the fund through the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. This will pay for the shade sails at the playground, located at 126 Spit Brook Road.

“I think standing out here on this hot, sunny day, we all realize how warm it can get, and the equipment gets even warmer,” Ward 8 Alderwoman Mary Ann Melizzi-Golja said. “This will be a great addition to this playground and certainly provide more hours of use during the middle of the day. So families can come here, rather than waiting to come at 5 or 6 p.m. at night when it can be very crowded.”

These shade sails will provide children at play with the opportunity to escape the blistering sun that heats the metal equipment in the daytime hours. This grant should help these children have a happier and safer place to play, near a spot where Jeff grew up playing sports on the fields adjacent to the playground.

Jeff was born in Nashua and attended Bicentennial Elementary School, Fairgrounds Middle School and Nashua High School. Morin, 15, and his classmate Malissa Blais, 16, died in a car accident in April 1995 when the car Blais was operating struck a tree on Dublin Avenue. Four other teenagers were injured.

The next year, the Jeff Morin Memorial Scholarship Fund was established.

“It was one of the most tragic accidents that has ever happened in Nashua,” Mayor Jim Donchess said.

Jeff would have graduated in 1997. Leading up to his death, he was in the top 1% of his high school class, was a member of National Honor Society, participated on the high school’s ski and golf teams, was a Special Olympics coach and also played on the city all-star basketball and baseball teams. He also graduated from Fairgrounds as class valedictorian.

Moreover, as his family and community members continue to keep his memory alive, Superintendent of Nashua Parks/Recreation Nick Caggiano said the hope is to do some infrastructure work in July. If all goes well, the sails will be flying by August.

Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206, or at aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.