‘Celebration of life’ honors Jackie Gray

Jennie Torres

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Passion and love flourished in the Burt Kahn Court on Nov. 5 when the Quinnipiac cheerleading teams united to perform in a showcase to honor Quinnipiac student Jacqueline Gray.

Gray died on July 4, 2016 as a result of injuries she sustained in a motor vehicle accident, according to MyQ. Gray had recently completed her freshman year at the university as a psychology major. She was a member of the psychology club, Summit Yearbook and the Quinnipiac IceCats.

Shortly after learning about Gray’s passing, her former roommates Lauren Gardner, Caroline Tanner and Emily Jackson organized a showcase to remember her spirit called “A Celebration of Life: Dedicated to Jackie Gray.”

Gardner, Tanner and Jackson met Gray during the second semester of their freshman year, and they quickly formed powerful friendships.

“We just clicked instantly, and she really was the missing piece to our room,” Jackson said.

Caroline Tanner, Emily Jackson and Lauren Gardner stand with Jackie's mother, Sandra Gray.
[/media-credit] Caroline Tanner, Emily Jackson and Lauren Gardner stand with Jackie’s mother, Sandra Gray.

Gardner said she believes Gray was the person who really brought all of them together.

When she passed away, I felt so helpless, and I just wanted to do something that showed all of the people she never got a chance to meet how special she really was,” Gardner said. “This show is to celebrate her life and to embody her bubbly and energetic self.”

Coach of the Quinnipiac IceCats and the Sideline Cheer team Michelle Coppola worked with Gray and recognized her love and passion for dance. Coppola said she spoke to Gray about the idea of having all of the spirit groups work together.

“I had told Jax [Gray] that one day I would love to [have] all the spirit groups all be under one umbrella and to collaborate together,” Coppola. “All of the groups here at Quinnipiac are some of the most respectful talented young ladies who, for Jax, have come together to honor and perform for Jax in the way she exemplified herself best, and that was through dance.”

The teams dedicated countless hours of practice time to prepare for their performances, according to Coppola.

Several organizations assisted in organizing the event including HBLive for lighting, Chartwells for food and water supply, Q30 Television for filming the event live and the Alumni Association for finding connections to help fundraise and save money.

Express Dance and Acrobatics from Milford, MA, performs to honor Gray.
[/media-credit] Express Dance and Acrobatics from Milford, MA, performs to honor Gray.

There was also a list of individual people who assisted in promoting the event, such as senior interactive digital design major Tyler Blinderman, who designed the promotional poster.

“I was happy to help seeing as it was such a great cause,” Blinderman said. “I didn’t personally know Jackie, but I think what these girls are doing in honor of their friend is incredible.”

Junior journalism major Nicole Kessler says she heard about Gardner, Tanner and Jackson planning the event in September, and she knew right away she wanted to help.

“I reached out to Lauren [Gardner] in September via Facebook, and we had been in contact ever since then,” Kessler said. “I told her that I would love to help in any way that I could. I love to film and edit, so together we decided that a promotional video would be a great way to spread the word on social media.”

The event was open to the public with a $3 admission. It showcased all of the spirit groups of the university including Dance Fusion, Dance Company, Kickline, Cheer and the IceCats. The groups all had individual choreographed dances to some of Gray’s favorite songs.

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The Quinnipiac Irish Step team incorporated their dancing in a segment as well. QU Note-Able! sang the song “Keep Holding On” by Avril Lavigne and one of Gray’s friends Carolyn Chaplin sang a solo to the song, “The Scientist” by Coldplay.

“From my observations, there were a lot of moving pieces to make this event go off without a hitch, and Saturday was amazing,“ Kessler said.

Senior Lisa Bluestein said she finds what Gray’s friends did to be very inspiring.

“The amount of people that came together shows how special and loved she was not only to her friends, but also the entire Quinnipiac community,” Bluestein said.

Many people will remember who Gray was and the light she brought into their lives.

“We had a special bond, a once in a lifetime bond between a coach and a student. She will forever remain in my heart,” Coppola said.

Gardner said Gray grew to be one of her best friends, and she is grateful to have known her.

“Jackie was so proud to be an IceCat,” Garner said. “She was always doing her routine in the room and showing us the new dance she learned that day. Although I only knew her for one semester, it felt like I have known her for a lifetime.”