Holy cross

Special spirit: Holy Cross honors former Hearts player battling cancer

WATERBURY — Founders Week is big at Holy Cross High, but Friday’s devotional took on greater significance when junior Eilyn Maldonado was introduced.

Holy Cross student-athlete Eilyn Maldonado received a standing ovation during Friday’s Founders’ Week devotional at the school. Maldonado, a junior, is battling bone cancer. Photo courtesy of Naugatuck Boys Basketball Facebook Page

Maldonado, an honors student who played basketball at Sacred Heart High as a freshman and sophomore before the school closed, planned to do so as a junior at Holy Cross. That was before she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, in September last year. Over 10 rounds of chemo later, and Maldonado is still fighting and still smiling.

Students dressed in blue (freshmen), red (sophomores), white (juniors) and black (seniors) shirts gave Maldonado a standing ovation when she walked onto the gymnasium grounds Tim McDonald with her best friend Destiny Muniz and Mike Wilson, his guidance counselor in Sainte-Croix. Muniz also played basketball for the Hearts with Maldonado.

“I know I have support every day. It’s just crazy,” Maldonado said after the assembly ended. “I love it.”

Muniz appreciates the support her best friend has received.

“It means a lot, honestly, because she always feels down and everyone around her always brings her up,” Muniz said. “It’s really unbelievable.”

Those present at the assembly received gold, purple or green bandanas. Gold is for Childhood Cancer Awareness, purple is Eilyn’s favorite color and green is for Holy Cross. After receiving the tremendous ovation, Maldonado entered a 3-point shooting contest against Wilson, which she naturally won.

“It’s a special place, Holy Cross, with the way the family comes together and takes care of each other,” Wilson said. “The love Eilyn has received has been tremendous.”

Maldonado also competed in dodgeball with his junior classmates against competitors from the sophomore class. When he wasn’t competing, Maldonado was dancing and having fun.

The S-class state champion men’s swim team was recognized at the meeting, as was the women’s basketball team. Undefeated, top-seeded Holy Cross takes on second-seeded Bacon Academy for the Class M Women’s Basketball State Championship game Sunday at 10 a.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena.

To note: A #EILYNSTRONG mixed softball tournament will take place on April 9 at Huntingdon Park. The entry fee is $150 and all proceeds will go to Maldonado’s fight against bone cancer. #Eilynstrong bracelets will be on sale, and other donations will be accepted. First and second place teams receive a trophy and there will also be food concessions.

Registration is limited to the first 12 teams.

Contact Stan Stasaitis at (203) 206-5189 to register your team.

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