MANCHESTER – Brian Roy had many different smiles.
On Tuesday, a freshman showed off his latest achievement as he stood in the driveway at Dunkin’ in Manchester, handing out gift cards and T-shirts to mark National Iced Coffee Day – a day where $1 for every iced coffee purchased is donated to Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation to directly support Connecticut Children’s Hospitals and Yale New Haven Children’s Hospitals.
Roy, a patient ambassador for Connecticut Children’s, was born with a cleft lip and palate that was discovered in utero and requires multiple surgeries to repair it. He has had four surgeries since birth, and each time his smile is adjusted.
After Roy initially greeted customers at the first driver’s window, UConn’s 7-foot Donovan Clingan approached from behind, bending over so his face could be seen through the window, and startled anyone who passed through the window.
Alex Karaban in the other window stood and waited patiently while Clingan took his time interacting with fans and Roy, signing everything that was placed in front of him.
“I want to share his smiles with everyone,” said Amanda Roy, Brian’s mother. “Brian has been through a lot in his few years. It’s blooming right now, but it’s definitely not finished. He is on his medical journey and has many surgeries ahead of him. But to be able to enjoy some of these very fun activities and to be able to represent not only the skull face department and the skull face community, but all of the children at Connecticut Children’s, it was an amazing experience.
Inside the building, which was packed with customers (and both UConn and Dunkin’ mascots), Hassan Diarra stood behind the counter and handed out orders, signing T-shirts with “Dunkin” on the chest with the hashtag “HU5KIES” below it – the number five representing the national championship #5, which the UConn men earned in April.
Members of the UConn program have worked with Dunkin’ on NIL opportunities, which often provide them with an opportunity to give back – Jordan Hawkins was handing out donuts on campus in March, and Clingan visited the children at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital in late April. Head coach Dan Hurley also surprised Dunkin customers in other locations to promote Iced Coffee Day.
Dunkin’s Iced Coffee Day raised over $1.8 million to support children in children’s hospitals nationwide.
“That means everything,” said Karaban. “That’s the reason we’re here to donate money to hospitals. It’s more than basketball, just using our platform that we have to give back to the community is something – we really play for it.”
Roy represented Connecticut Children’s when he threw the first pitch at Sunday’s Hartford Yard Goats game. Karaban sets off on his first solo tour. He was invited by the Worcester Red Sox, near where he grew up in Southborough, Massachusetts, and threw what he claims was a strike on Friday.
“It was a little lollipop, I won’t lie. It was a bit soft,” he said. “I didn’t want to embarrass myself, but it was fine – it was a strike. People don’t think it was a strike based on form (v photos sent by the team), but it was a strike.”
Karaban and Clingan, originally from Bristol, plan to throw the first pitch ahead of a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park in July, a date has yet to be set.
“It’s so much fun to work with UConn fans and then work for such a large network that I almost grew up with,” said Karaban. “It’s definitely great fun.”
Roy, himself a UConn fan who may or may not have bribed his principal with donuts, had just as much fun interacting with the players he just watched as he won the national championship.
“We live in UConn country so we rooted for them,” Amanda said. “You must be when you’re here, right?”