Former student is back, organizing a successful basketball tournament for WCS

Posted on October 9, 2018. Category: WCS News

For more than 90 years Waterford Country School has worked to meet the special needs of children and families at risk. Over the years, the services and programs have evolved with the transitions that life and community present. Through it all, the mission and high standards of care have remained constant. Together with a highly dedicated and skilled staff, Board of Trustees and many friends in the community, we have developed an extensive array of programs and are committed to the spirit of doing “Whatever It Takes.” The community works hard to ensure that each child entrusted to our care is given the opportunity to grow, learn, and develop at his or her own pace.

Years later, one of Waterford Country School’s  own residents has come back to the WCS community as an effort to give back. He is currently working at Waterford Country School as a child care worker, making connections and using his own story to build a relationship with WCS students. On a warm August day, teams gathered in the Waterford Country School gymnasium for the 3rd Annual Basketball Tournament hosted by former WCS kid, Davonta Valentine. At the age of eleven years old, Davonta moved to the town of Waterford living in a residential group home called Thomas Bent Shelter (at Waterford Country School) for about ten months. Through the support of the staff at Waterford Country School, Davonta had the opportunity to attend the local public elementary school in Waterford. While attending school, he met a paraprofessional who would change his life forever. After spending some time and learning Davonta’s story,

the paraprofessional – Susan Picardi took him in at the age of 12 years old. The Picardi family embraced the young athlete Davonta and he found a permanent family in Waterford when he was adopted by the Picardi’s at 18 years of age. Davonta went on to attend Salve Regina University to both earn his degree in Criminal Justice and continue his passion for basketball. After years spent away from Waterford Country School, he felt a calling to return “home” and give back to a school that gave him so much.

The idea was inspired while he was working at a school in Montville. He found himself in classroom discussing with

peers what they would want to do in life that will help others. In the moment, Davonta knew he wanted to combine his passions: basketball and giving back. In 2015, he started a basketball tournament that gives back to “a place where he started a new life” before he was “taken into a beautiful family.” He recognizes that as a small non profit, every little bit helps for the Waterford Country School.

The tournament was completely organized and planned by Davonta and his support network. In it’s 3rd year, the tournament was hosted in the newly finished

Waterford Country School gymnasium, the place where his new life started. On August 19, 2018, nine teams, consisting of community friends and colleagues, attended the Third Annual Valentine Classic. Davonta felt the emotions of playing the game he loves in a place he will always care for. He recalls, “it was a sweet ending to an emotional day because the Waterford Country School Team won the entire tournament against my own team.” Davonta’s students were even able to help out at the tournament giving out waters and snacks. Engaging the students made the event all the more special. The tournament brought everyone together for a day of fun and raised $700 for the children and programs at WCS.  Davonta remarks, “Above all, the Waterford Country School is home to me and I often think about where I would be if I didn’t end up here. I hope the ability to share my story with students encourages them to see that this is one chapter of their life, and what matters is where they go from here.” Davonta says without the support from WCS, and especially Bill Martin, the tournament would not have been as perfect as it was this year. He holds high hopes for next year’s tournament and the future of his own WCS students.