Fundraiser will celebrate Cuban roots of slain Milford teen
Maren Sanchez was always proud of her Cuban heritage on her father’s side, and it was her goal to one day visit the island nation.
Maren will never get that chance because her life was cut short four years ago when she was fatally stabbed at Jonathan Law High School by a fellow classmate April 25, 2014, on the day of the junior prom. Maren was 16.
But her mother, Donna Cimarelli, who has formed the nonprofit Maren Sanchez Home Foundation in her only child’s memory, will bring that Cuban flavor to an upcoming gala fundraiser for the foundation.
“A Magical Night in Havana,” (magical was one of Maren’s favorite words) will be held April 28 at Milford Yacht Club — and Cimarelli and the rest of the foundation’s board are looking for sponsors and donations of gift cards for “Mystery Cuban Boxes” that will sell for $50.
Cimarelli said among the items in the boxes will be a $1,300 necklace donated by Valentine’s Diamond Center. All donations are tax deductible and various levels come with program and event advertising. She said there have been other generous donors, among them: Brian Bannon, owner of Thermaxx in West Haven, Peoples United Bank, Milford Bank, special thanks to manager Jorge Santiago, and Bohemian High boutique.
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The money raised at the gala will be used to carry out the Maren Sanchez Home Foundation’s mission of teach girls and young women to protect themselves from predators physically and emotionally. The foundation’s Her-Self Defense Program has trained some 250 girls so far to physically ward off attacks and the Her-Self Awareness Program, brought so far to some 300 females, teaches them to “follow their instincts” and recognize the signs of emotional and psychological manipulation that can lead to violence.
The gala will include an authentic pig roast in keeping with the Cuban theme, a Latin/Cuban fusion band and an auction.
Cimarelli, who believes Maren’s outcome might have been different if she had been educated in such areas, shares Maren’s compelling story during workshops.
Cimarelli does so because there were many classic warning signs in Maren’s case — her killer preying on Maren’s good heart and niceness, her mother has said.
Maren, a popular junior and friend to all, was stabbed in a school stairwell by another student, Christopher Plaskon, whose invitation to the prom she had turned down.
Cimarelli said Maren and Plaskon had been casual friends, but he became obsessed with her and wanted to take her to the prom, which she declined. There had been stalking and emotional manipulation as well, Plaskon preying on Maren’s caring ways, Cimarelli said.
Cimarelli had a gut instinct all along something wasn’t right as well and told her daughter.
Cimarelli’s awareness workshops — which include the expertise of a psychologist and others in the field — spell out the scientifically established “pre-incident indicators” or red flags on the road to violence.
Maren’s case illustrates the slippery slope of manipulation and control to violence, Cimarelli said.
If Maren were more assertive in saying no all along maybe it would have cut things off sooner, Cimarelli told them.
Cimarelli said she would learn from many students after Maren’s death that there were red flags all along. Plaskon is serving a 25-year prison sentence.