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Freshmen remember incoming classmate

| Friday, August 21, 2015

The Notre Dame class of 2019 had not officially set foot on campus or even received their dorm assignments when one of their own, Rebecca Draper Townsend, died in a car accident July 2 in Danbury, Connecticut.

A resident of Brookfield, Connecticut, Townsend was a graduate of Immaculate High School and was going to start her freshman year this fall.

In response to her death, the class of 2019 began an ongoing commitment to honor her memory.

Incoming freshman Taja Reynolds said she and many of her classmates had gotten to know Townsend and were talking to her online.

“We got pretty close to her so when we heard that she passed, we all immediately wanted to do something for her, let people know how great she was,” she said.

According to Reynolds, a group of freshmen wanted to do something tangible to celebrate their friend. Freshman Nick Bufalino suggested creating and selling a bracelet in Rebecca’s memory to benefit She’s The First, a charity granting scholarships to impoverished girls in developing countries. Townsend worked closely with She’s The First, and started a chapter of the organization at her high school.

“As soon as we heard about the loss of Rebecca, our classmate, the class of 2019 knew that we wanted to do something to honor and celebrate the selfless love that Rebecca embodied,” Bufalino said.

Bufalino said they raised money for the bracelets through the website GoFundMe. Classmates raised more than $4600, Bufalino said, and they plan to sell the wristbands for $3 each at the start of the school year.

“The positive reception and support from the Notre Dame family has truly been overwhelming,” he said. “As a first generation student at Notre Dame, I am so thankful to be part of a community that goes beyond the call of duty to show genuine support in a time of need.”

Another member of the class of 2019 and friend of Townsend, Pamela Udoye said the actual fundraising was only part of their goal to spread Rebecca’s legacy.

“We shared her story with as many friends and family as possible because Rebecca was such a special and amazing person,” Udoye said.

Sophomore Travis Gayle also helped spread the word about the bracelet fundraiser on social media and said the experience demonstrated the power of the Notre Dame community to come together for a common cause.

“As a freshman, coming in was intimidating whether anyone admits it or not,” Gayle said. “This was one of the silver linings in a cloud that gave me a chance to show the freshman that what we exemplify is family and togetherness at Notre Dame.”

In addition to the bracelet campaign, the class of 2019 will make a quilt with messages of support for the Townsend family in memory of Townsend as part of official Welcome Weekend programming. On Sunday from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m, the quilt will be assembled in a tent on North Quad and all members of the class of 2019 community are welcomed to participate. Townsend will also be commemorated at the first year mass welcoming new students on August 23.

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