Young soccer players gather to honor Mary Harris

MORETOWN, Vt. (WCAX) Vermonters are remembering the five teens killed in a wrong-way crash, and one of them is inspiring a special message at Harwood Union High School.

Hundreds turned out for the annual youth girls' soccer practice held in Mary Harris' memory. Tuesday marked three years since the 16-year-old died when Steven Bourgoin drove down the wrong side of the highway into a car full of kids.

Mary spent three years playing the sport she loved on the soccer field, and now players are learning how to live life in her footsteps.

"Today is a perfect representation of the kind of person she was," said Lili Platt, the Harwood varsity soccer team captain. "She's changed Hardwood and girls soccer around the valley and Waterbury forever in that we're always working towards being kinder, being more welcoming, being more inclusive."

"Mary loved our team so much, and she was so sweet to me and Lili, especially being freshmen our first year," said Marcella Grimaldi, a fellow Harwood soccer player. "She kind of took us under her wing."

Each member of the team keeps a reminder of her character with them wherever they go. It's an essay Mary wrote before she died about the importance of kindness. "I carry it around every single day with me in my soccer bag," Grimaldi said.

Harwood Union High School has always had a youth soccer day, but the organization renamed the event to carry on Mary's legacy. "Mary was very excited about youth soccer day," said Elizabeth Harris, Mary's mother. "She was into the kids, she was just gung-ho about playing with them."

Harris says she hopes this practice day is a reminder to young players to spread kindness wherever they go like Mary did. "These kids are constantly leaving this legacy behind. Not only is Mary leaving part of that and extending part of that, but these girls will bring that into another place. They'll bring it into their colleges, to any coaching they do or sports they continue to play," she said.

Those players are now donning red t-shirts with a message to "Love Like Mary" did. Proceeds from the T-shirt sales go toward Mad River Valley Youth Soccer scholarships. "When you see all these shirts and all these kids wearing them, it's very uplifting," Harris said.

For some of the kids, the practice is an opportunity to grieve for their beloved babysitter. "She always understood what you were talking about, and it was a lot of fun having her," said 11-year-old Skye Maves.

For others, the anniversary of the crash lays out a path forward. "The loss of the five incredible people we lost three years ago is a reminder to be grateful for every day, be grateful for the people that we have that are close to us," Platt said.

"Now it's up to us to honor by playing, having fun, and just being a great person, which is far more important than being a great athlete," said Mike Vasseur, the varsity soccer coach.

Organizers say the event continues to grow year after year, and they hope it'll inspire more young athletes to spread kindness.

Proceeds from "LOVE LIKE MARY" t-shirt sales go toward Mad River Valley Youth Soccer scholarships.