Norwich lacrosse players cheerfully climbed the university’s rock wall Saturday afternoon, clinging to the legacy of a teammate they never knew.
“Connor was a very sociable kid, big smile, always very gregarious, life of the party I would say, very optimistic, positive kid,” Neal Anderson, Norwich men’s lacrosse head coach, reflected.
Connor Roberts was a stand-out lacrosse player at Norwich University. He was an athlete, and presumably healthy based on any observation.
In the summer of 2014, the St. Albans native had just finished his sophmore year when tragedy struck. Turns out, Connor wasn’t as healthy as everyone thought. He suffered a fatal heart attack, and his family later found out he had a severe condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
“We had no idea Connor even had it,” Peggy Roberts, Connor’s mother, explained. “It’s like a silent killer, there’s not a whole lot of signs. In hindsight, yes, there are a few signs, but nothing that really stood out to us in Connor’s particular case.”
Connor was gone too soon, but far from forgotten. His brother and sister played sports at Castleton University, so Norwich and Castleton teamed up to form the “Climb for Connor” fundraiser.
This year marks the fifth-annual 24-hour rock climb event. Each school’s men’s lacrosse team hosts a continuous rock climb on their respective rock walls on back-to-back weekends. The two schools compete in number of climbs and total money raised.
The donated funds go to the Roberts family and the Connor Roberts Memorial Fund, a scholarship the Roberts family set up to be awarded to a St. Albans student heading to college.
Each spring, when Norwich and Castleton play each other, the two teams combine the money they raised and present it to the Roberts family. After the game, the teams join the family for a banquet to celebrate the fundraising efforts and Connor’s life.
“It’s not every day that something like this happens and we definitely really appreciate the efforts on both sides,” Ben Roberts, Connor’s brother, expressed.
“The pride that these schools have shown for Connor and for my family [is great],” Peggy Roberts said. “That Connor didn’t die in vain, that we’re continuing to make progress and raise money for his fund, which goes to help the community, and the old saying, ‘When you die young in a small town you’re a hero.'”