By MICHAEL MELIA
MILFORD, Conn. (AP) — The life of a 16-year-old girl stabbed to death at a Connecticut school a year ago was celebrated Saturday by hundreds of people with a road race, fried food and live music.
Wearing shirts in Maren Sanchez’s favorite color of purple, the crowd filled a baseball field behind Milford’s Jonathan Law High School, where she was attacked and killed in a hallway April 25, 2014. A classmate has been charged with murder in her death.
After a week of somber remembrances at the school, her classmates and event organizers said the idea was to remember Maren on the anniversary of her death as she would have wanted, with smiles and joy.
“I don’t think there’s anything sad about this,” said Darby Hudd, a 17-year-old friend of the slain teen. “It’s such a celebration.”
The prom-day slaying stunned people around Connecticut and especially in this shoreline city, where Maren is remembered as an outgoing person, active in drama and other school activities, who had a kind word for anyone she met.
The event included a kickball tournament, bounce houses and a dunk tank, with proceeds benefiting a scholarship program created by Maren’s mother. The day was bittersweet, with some exchanging long hugs, but organizers said they agreed with Maren’s mother, Donna Cimarelli, that the community did not need another vigil.
“We’ve cried a lot in this town. If you knew Maren, she would have embraced an event like this,” said Elena Garet, whose daughter was friends with the teenager. “Maren was a girl who brought people together.”
The classmate accused of attacking Maren with a knife, Christopher Plaskon, has pleaded not guilty. His attorney has said he intends to use an insanity defense. Police have said they were looking into whether the attack was related to Sanchez’s refusal to be Plaskon’s date to their junior prom.
Fran Thompson, the high school principal, said students and faculty are still recovering from the loss of the beloved girl. Over the last week, he said, the school held memorial events and students have been tweeting favorite memories of Maren and examples of people showing kindness toward others.
“This whole year has really changed us a lot,” he said. “I think it’s made us more aware of the importance to remember the good in people, to take a moment and put things in perspective.”