EAST GREENWICH – The Cavanagh family, people of faith, does not have to look very far for the signs.
At Thomas Cavanagh’s wake three years ago, two rainbows appeared in a frigid January sky, one inverted like a smile.
And on Saturday, the two winners of the inaugural Cavanagh Scholarship Run – male and female – each wore the Number 9, the former hockey great’s uniform number from his time on the ice in the American Hockey League and the number of siblings in the Cavanagh household.
The family – Tom’s four brothers and four sisters – think not.
There were 234 runners who ran the 5K race through the streets of EG, and 50 kids for the fun run on Saturday. The Cavanaghs estimate that they raised more than $10,000 for Our Lady of Mercy School, where Cavanagh attended as a child.
“It was a wonderful day, the weather was perfect and we had an energized crowd,” said one of the organizers, Courtney Cavanagh, Tom’s sister-in-law. “People were there from all parts of Tom’s life, elementary school teachers and friends to second cousins. Our volunteers were amazing, many showing up at 5:30 to help.
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“The winners for both the male and female races both wore the number 9 on their shirts. They were also from St Margaret’s Church, where Tom was baptized,” she added.
Tom Cavanagh, the middle child of 9, was arguably the finest schoolboy hockey player ever produced in Rhode Island. A star for Toll Gate High School in nearby Warwick, Harvard University and the Worcester and San Jose Sharks of the AHL and National Hockey League, respecively, he was beloved by his large family and friends at every level.
Unknown to teammates and friends for many years, Cavanagh suffered from mental illness, had to quit the game he loved, and sadly ended his own life in January 2011 at the age of 28.
“Tom would have loved the event. He wasn’t really into running, but he loved the outdoors and activities with family and friends,” said his brother Paul, another organizer of the event. “He would have loved the idea of giving back to the community, Our Lady of Mercy and to those who are less fortunate.
“This event is important to our family because many of the nine kids and several of the 10 grandchildren attended or attend OLM, including Tom, for a short time,” he added. “We have a strong faith and this presented a great opportunity to support the school and give back to the parish community.”
The Fun Run event for children was symbolic of Tom’s love of them. Tommy loved his nieces and nephews. He truly enjoyed babysitting and spending time with them. As a godfather to Patrick, he always had gifts for him on his birthday, at Christmas, and at the completion of each hockey season. He’d be thrilled to be supporting their school.”
Besides his eight living siblings, Tom was 1 of 46 Cavanagh grandchildren. Paul said that approximately 25 family members participated in the race.
Tom would have been proud of this event, he said.
“You never fully recover from the loss of a child or sibling, but we all have been blessed with a strong faith and know that Tom is with us always,” said Paul. “Tommy’s life continues to positively affect and impact many people. After events such as the 5k you can see that impact. We have witnessed so much good come from Tommy’s life that it certainly helps our family remain strong.”
The Thomas G. Cavanagh Fund is a relatively new non-profit organization and the family is continually looking for ways to raise awareness, and increase support for research, education, etc. For more information, go to www.tgcfund.org .