In reflecting on his days in Cheshire Junior Football, Cheshire High School senior Sean Cangiano is amazed by how the organization has impacted his life on and off the field.
“They (the coaches and parents) took me under their wing and developed me as a player and person,” explained Cangiano. “When I was CJF, there were older kids helping out and I want to do the same for the younger guys now.”
Through a charitable project, he has found a way to thank the youth sports program and help out his hometown. For the last two years, Cangiano has run the CJF Food Drive benefitting the Cheshire Food Pantry.
“It’s so important to be a part of this (effort),” said Cangiano. “CJF made me into the man I am today and this is a great gesture to show the kind of impact they have had on me.”
CJF started the food drive back in 2016. Last year, Cangiano inherited the operation from Michael Jeffery, a 2018 CHS graduate who also played football from youth up through high school in Cheshire.
“I think that it (the food drive) is one of the great things we have in Cheshire,” said CJF President JR Lovelace. “We talk about being a Cheshire football family. The kids start off in CJF and then move on to the high school, but they still want to give back to the (youth) program.”
After running the food drive for the first time last fall, Cangiano felt more comfortable planning this year’s fundraiser, which ran during the first round of the Shoreline Youth Football Conference playoffs on Nov. 3 at CHS. With the help of his mom Kim and fellow volunteer Landa Mauriello-Vernon, CJF used email to spread the word of the initiative.
“I knew what I was getting into this time,” reflected Cangiano. “We were able to contact the other towns that were bringing teams and that made it (the event) more successful.”
For the event, Cangiano set up a collection table at the front entrance to the David B. Maclary Athletic Complex at CHS. He also had fellow football players and high school cheerleaders come over to assist him from 7 a.m. through 5 p.m.
“We were showing other towns that we are giving back to our community,” stated Cangiano.
With five football teams visiting CHS on Nov. 3, CJF was happy to give a lot of non-residents the chance to contribute to the food drive, as well.
“It is a nice example of people willing to help others, even when they are not in their specific community,” explained Lovelace. “There is a common bond in the conference. You can be rivals on the field, but partners off of it.”
For this year’s drive, CJF collected 617 pounds of food items and raised over $500 in monetary donations. The day after the project, Cangiano dropped off everything at the Cheshire Food Pantry.
“It feels great to know that there are people who care about those less fortunate in this community,” stated Cangiano. “We want to provide for people, who may not be able to provide for themselves.”
On the field this fall, Cangiano has played a key role in CHS football winning six straight games en route to a 7-1 record. While his high school career isn’t over yet, he has already committed to continue playing at Trinity College.
“Since I was in fifth grade, I’ve wanted to play college football,” reflected Cangiano, an offensive/defensive lineman. “I’ve put so much work in academically and athletically. I have to thank my parents and teammates for getting me on the level I’ll be playing at next year."
In going on to compete in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, Cangiano is excited to play against Jeffery, a member of the football team at Amherst College (Massachusetts). Locally, their families are very close and even spend Thanksgiving together.
“We’ve been family friends forever,” said Cangiano. “I played with him (Jeffery) in my sophomore year when he was a (CHS) senior and we are excited to be playing for rival teams starting next year. We talk about it all the time.”
The friends’ younger brothers, Jake Cangiano and Matt Jeffery, also play for the CJF eighth grade team that beat Guilford, 34-6, on Sunday to earn a record-setting fifth SYFC title.
“It’s great to have them playing together because they look up to us. We support them every Sunday at games and they support us on Fridays and soon to be Saturdays,” stated Cangiano.