July 16, 2013

the Petit Family Foundation

Plainville runners turned out to be some of the fastest Sunday morning among participants of the 6th Annual General Electric 5K Road Race, to benefit the Petit Family Foundation Hong Kong tour.

Fittingly, Dr. William Petit Jr. happens to be a Plainville native and the race also took place in town, finishing up at GE on Rt. 10 with a raffle and announcement of winners.

"It’s just a wonderful community event; we really appreciate the outpouring of support,” said Dr. Petit, whose wife Christine sang the National Anthem at the start of the race.

Although Emily D’Addario and Jon Krell — the morning’s two overall winners — were from Farmington, the youngest racers to come out on top in the 12 and younger category were Kayla DiTolla, 12, and Cole McNamara, 12, who both live in Plainville.

Robert Logan, 84, also a town resident, took second place in the 80+ group last year, and despite being one year older he came in first place Sunday.

A total of more than 1,500 people ran and about 1,400 more chose to walk. An opportunity for free massage therapy followed their treks, as volunteers from the Connecticut chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association were on hand.

"Sports massage has been around for a long time; it can help muscles recover faster and keep muscles from cramping,” explained Deby Van Ohlen, coordinator .

"It’s a wonderful event; we’re happy to provide this kind of support,” she added.

People geared up for the race the night before at a pasta dinner, also attended by the Petit family. Their foundation has awarded nearly $900,000 in grant funding over the last six years in honor of Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela Petit, who lost their lives in a tragic home invasion in Cheshire back in 2007.

Their spirits live on through these charitable efforts, which foster the education of young women in the sciences, improve the lives of people with chronic illnesses and protect those affected by violence. Among beneficiaries is The Connecticut Science Center, which earlier this year launched a two-year initiative to encourage female participation in science, technology, engineering and math .

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July 13, 2013

hospital the previous day

When mother is snatched away, Gogo picks up the pieces

"She left me with so many children," says Sophie Hlophe*, as if thinking out loud. The 69-year-old is sitting in the living area of the two- bedroom RDP house in Katlehong, a township east of Johannesburg, that she shares with her husband and five grandchildren.

"What will I do with all these children? I can't even scold them – children nowadays are very naughty. They need someone who will be patient with them. What will I do?"

Four years ago, Hlophe was standing in front of the sink in her small kitchenette mixing formula powder with hot water in her grandson, Themba's* bottle. The infant was agitated because his mother had been admitted to Natalspruit hospital the previous day.

Before she could tend to the restless bundle squirming on her bed in the room just a few steps away, Hlophe's cellphone rang. It was a nurse from the hospital: "Your daughter is dead," she said.

Hlophe was shocked. The 37-year-old Sonto*, her youngest daughter, was fine just a few days before.

"I had no idea how this could have happened," she says.

Sonto had not had any health problems and seemed to be recovering well from her baby's birth.

But, three weeks after having Themba, she developed a cough that only got worse. Three days later, her brother and a relative who lived nearby offered to take her to the hospital in an old white bakkie.

With Sonto's toiletries packed, they helped her into the back. Hlophe and Themba joined them. Sonto's four other children stayed at home with their grandfather. The old car rushed through the crowded township streets to the nearby Natalspruit hospital where, Hlophe expected, her daughter would get well soon. Instead, the phone call.

Four years later
Today, on a cold winter's morning, Hlophe's home is filled with the sound of cartoons on the television and her grandchildren lazing around on the worn-out couches: Sonto's children are now four, nine, 12, 13 and 22 years old.

Putting on a brave face, Hlophe leans back against the rest of the steel-framed chair in the modest living space of her home.

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