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Vicki Soto Fund Spreads Support Across Many Causes In Stratford

Bunnell High School senior Rachael Merritt, center, and Stratford High School senior Mike LaPia, right, were awarded the 2015 Vicki Soto Memorial scholarships.
Bunnell High School senior Rachael Merritt, center, and Stratford High School senior Mike LaPia, right, were awarded the 2015 Vicki Soto Memorial scholarships. Photo Credit: vickisotomemorial.com
Vicki Soto
Vicki Soto Photo Credit: vickisotomemorial.com
The Vicki Soto Memorial Fund donated 26 turkeys to Sterling House Community Center last Thanksgiving.
The Vicki Soto Memorial Fund donated 26 turkeys to Sterling House Community Center last Thanksgiving. Photo Credit: vickisotomemorial.com

STRATFORD, Conn. — Many Stratford residents know of the Vicki Soto Memorial Fund through the popular 5K race it holds each fall to honor Soto, a teacher killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown in 2012.

But the fund is much more than that, says board member Amy Wiltsie.

In addition to creating a public school literacy project, the fund also donates to the Stratford Public Library and has created a substantial scholarship program for high schoolers.

“From tragedy, so much good has come,” said Wiltsie, whose husband, Jim, was Soto’s cousin.

The road race alone raised about $100,000 for the fund, every penny of which goes into its charitable works, she said.

As a first-grade teacher, Soto was keen on supporting children’s literacy. To commemorate her commitment to reading, organizers made a $5,000 donation to the Stratford Library this school year to support programs that are a spin-off of the Miss Soto Literacy Legacy Program.

The project provides mentor books to each K-6 classroom in Stratford. The quarter’s selection is Trudy Ludwig’s “The Invisible Boy,” about a child who feels ignored by both teachers and peers.

The Library Children’s Department will bring drama coach Ingrid Schaeffer to the library April 19 to help kids act out scenes from the book, said Library Director Sheri Szymanski.

“As the collection of selected titles grows each year, families will be able to use them to foster a love of reading and learning,” she said. “We are excited to see children visiting the library and sharing the books they have read in school with their parents.”

To register for the program, call the children’s department at 203-385-4165.

The fund's donation also established a free K-2 after-school tutoring program with at the library. The funds covered staffing and provided incentives for the volunteer high school tutors.

The fund also supports a scholarship given to one graduating senior from each of the town’s two high schools who will be entering a teaching program in college. Each scholarship is worth $5,026, in memory of the 26 killed at Sandy Hook.

Since Soto was a Big Sister, the fund has made a donation to that program for each of the past two years.

In addition, the fund accepts corporate sponsorships to pay for items such as race T-shirts, so donors know contributions do not cover administrative costs.

“We have no paid employees,” Wiltsie said. “We just have a great corps of committed people.”

For more information on the Vicki Soto Memorial Fund or the Nov. 5 5K, visit the website .

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