Margaret Sheridan has one message for parents and that is to "hug your kids."

In the case of Sheridan and four other families from the New Oxford area, it is an action they wish they could still perform with some of their children.

If only there was a way ...

In December of 2011, the lives of those families were changed forever when a car crash killed five New Oxford High School soccer players.

Lost that day was Casey Sheridan, Chelsea McFalls, Diego Aguilar, Oscar Banda and Anthony Campos. All soccer players. All friends. All someone's daughter, son, sister or brother.

The agonizing time forged a bond within the families, within the community. Somehow those most affected found the strength to honor those lost in a most positive way.

In August of 2012, the first 5 Angels Soccer Tournament was held to great success. Sheridan hopes it will be topped this August 10-11 when 16 high school soccer teams will descend on Utz Fields in Hanover.

"The families decided that our children are together forever so we need to stick together," Margaret Sheridan said. "We decided that we wanted to do something to give back to the community. They have been there for us -- they are still there for us. It's beyond comprehension the support we received.

"We sat down and decided what is the best way to give back. So we came up with the idea for the soccer tournament ... We figured that would involve all of their friends and get teams together to do what our kids loved to do, play soccer."


Amazingly this group of people put the first tournament together in only three months of planning. It got off to a tremendous start with the help of businesses that came on board, not only to advertise in the program, but also donate items, such as banners, flags and signs.

The first opening ceremonies were attended by 1,200 people. The teams took a pre-tournament lap around the pitch. Flags were carried by Luke McFalls, Chelsea's older brother, and Colonials then-goalkeeper Abby Reichard, who was close to all five kids. A tradition was born.

"While those kids went around the field you could hear a pin drop," Sheridan said. "Nobody asked for silence. The parade of teams turned into so much more. It was beautiful. I can't even put it into words."

The crowd was further touched when Casey Sheridan's sister Kelly read the tournament's mission statement in English and Anthony Campos' brother Christian did the same in Spanish.

There was also a closing ceremony which included a trophy presentation. All of these things will continue and even grow in this year's version.

"Our opening ceremony is very touching and very important to us," Sheridan said. "This year we are going to have all the (5 angels) siblings carry a flag, a ball, or speak at the opening ceremony. There will be representatives from each family as a part of the opening ceremony.

"Last year was very emotional for us. This year I think everybody is a little more able to step up to the mic or be a part of it."

In 2012 the tournament raised $1,000 for the both the Colonials boys' and girls' soccer programs, along with a pair of $1,000 scholarships that went towards tuition for 2013 New Oxford grads Margo Jacoby and Tyler Stepback.

Sheridan said the committee's goal this year is to increase all of those amounts in 2013. The plan is to keep the spirit of their kids alive by continuing the tournament annually.

Despite putting this tournament together so well a year ago, doing it again had its challenges, especially under such emotional circumstances. It can reopen the wounds of grieving for many people.

"You have two choices after something like that: You can just give up or you can try and do something positive," Sheridan said. "We don't ever want our children to be forgotten. For us, it's a way to remember our children and it's a way for us to do something positive for the community and for our children's friends."

In the midst of tragedy the parents found their way of hugging those kids.

They did it by hugging an entire community. And it all came together with the families sitting in a small room, coming together with a special purpose, even with a language barrier.

"We sat there, three families that spoke English and two that spoke Spanish and we pulled this off," Sheridan said.

Those five angels are smiling because of it.
@stevenavaroli; 771-2060

Also of interest

  • New Oxford family begins soccer charity to honor deceased daughter.