Adversity. The word has been overused in athletics to the point where it has become devoid of substantive meaning. Coaches and athletes when asked to put their seasons into context often speak to having to deal with adversity. Sure, in a team sports setting, when you spend so much time together, challenging circumstances are bound to arise. Really, when most teams speak to adversity, frequently the situations pale in comparison to what many of us deal with on a regular basis. It’s called life.
The two football teams competing in Saturday’s Little Ten Conference championship game know all to well about dealing with real adversity. In actuality, adversity doesn’t begin to describe the devastating trials of the MCI and Bucksport football communities. Through tragedy, these proud football programs have persevered and have been a shining light to those around them.
This past summer, 14 year-old Nolan Berthelette of Pittsfield began working out with the MCI football team. A soccer player throughout his youth, the freshman to be wanted to give football a try in the fall. Nolan would never have the opportunity to step on the field on those crisp fall Friday nights. Berthelette passed away from a brain aneurysm on July 19th.
The community of Bucksport is a bit more removed from having to mourn the passing of someone so young. Taylor Darveau, a popular and well-liked girl at Bucksport High School was killed in a car accident in October 2013. Some say time heals all wounds. Under these circumstances as the Bucks were getting ready to compete around the one year anniversary of her death, the pain still was all too real.
Not to put it on the same plane but earlier that week Verso Paper announced the mill in Bucksport would be closing by the end of the year. The mill had been the heartbeat of the community for many, many years. Many of the young men competing on the football field had family members whose livelihoods depended on the good-paying jobs the mill provided. What will their futures hold and how will their families be provided for?
I’ve never directly experienced the loss of someone close to me at a very young age. I’m burdened by the fact that mere words won’t adequately convey the range of emotions felt by those close to Taylor or Nolan. I can only begin to imagine the feelings of grief and heartache of those whose lives they touched in just a short amount of time. I’m sure it is also with a bittersweet joy that people remember the vibrant lives they lived.
I didn’t know Taylor Darveau or Nolan Berthelette. I’ve only seen glimpses into their lives as told by others. By all accounts, both could light up a room by their presence. Darveau is remembered as a cheerleader at Bucksport High School, who has left behind numerous friends. Berthelette is known for his big heart and kindness to others. He was involved in a number of activities, was an accomplished artist, musician, and budding athlete.
Since their deaths both communities have paid tribute in very meaningful ways. Taylor Darveau’s favorite colors, pink and purple, are displayed prominently during many Bucksport athletic events. Nolan Berthelette’s favorite color was orange. The MCI football team wears black socks with orange lettering with the initials N.B. and the number 13. Nolan would have worn 13 as a member of this year’s Huskies football team. Nolan’s father, Ray Berthelette is on the sidelines for every Huskies football game, home and away, wearing his son’s number 13 jersey.
Through the heartbreak, both teenagers have left a lasting legacy. Taylor Darveau’s parents, Corey and Christina Darveau, have started a foundation in their late daughter’s memory. The Taylor Darveau Foundation raises awareness about the dangers of reckless teen driving. Money raised through the foundation goes to produce materials to educate to this endeavor. During this year’s regular season John Bapst vs. Bucksport football games the raffle money raised went to the Taylor Darveau Foundation. During the game raffle winners received “Taylor Tags” Taylor Tags are to be placed in the rear window of a driver’s vehicle with an intermediate license. The goal is to raise awareness before a young person gets into a vehicle they shouldn’t.
According to an article in the Portland Press Herald shortly after his passing, Nolan Berthelette had his organs donated. The donation of his heart saved the life of a woman in her 20s.
It’s evident Taylor Darveau and Nolan Berthelette were the kind of people anyone would be proud to call their daughter, son, sister, brother, or friend. Through the times of sadness and mourning, their legacy lives on as a beacon of hope to the lives they touched. As Bucksport and MCI take to the football field on Saturday they are one step away from playing for the ultimate prize. Emotions will run high as they play not for just themselves but for these two individuals who touched so many.