It’s without a doubt that a person’s time in college is a pivotal time in their life.
While some people may think their time in university meant to teach them the skills needed to excel in their careers, it also offers a time for individuals break out from their comfort zone and figure out who truly they are.
In the four-year period, plenty of students will decide to join various clubs and sports teams, in an effort to find like-minded people who share similar interests as themselves. This includes joining a fraternity or sorority.
One significant aspect to Greek life is participating in philanthropic events to raise money for charity and help those in need.
However, one charity event at a Connecticut university took a devastating turn when it left one student dead after she choked to death while taking part in a pancake-eating contest.
On March 30 2017, Caitlin Nelson of Clark, New Jersey, was participating in a charity pancake-eating contest for Sacred Heart University’s Greek Week, when she began to shake uncontrollably and fell to the floor.
Fox News reported the incident occurred only minutes after the competition took place.
Fairfield Police Lt. Bob Kalamaras said at the time that two nursing students attempted to provide Nelson with lifesaving measures before the police and paramedics arrived, but they were unsuccessful.
The college junior experienced severe brain damage due to oxygen deprivation and was rushed to a New York City hospital. Sadly, she would pass away three days later, with her end of life ruled as death by asphyxiation.
“The lack of oxygen for that extended period of time caused irreversible damage, making it not survivable,” Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara told PEOPLE back in April 2017.
Now, Nelson’s mother Rosanne Nelson has decided to bring awareness to the dangers of amateur eating contests and has filed a lawsuit against the university over the death of her daughter.
“These contests are significantly more dangerous than people realize.”
The lawsuit claims Sacred Heart University is at fault for Nelson’s death, as the post-secondary facility sanctioned the event, despite the fact that pancakes are “a particularly dangerous food to eat quickly.”
The documents also state that the university failed to have “adequate and appropriate medical personnel” at the eating contest, adding that responding officers had found a mass of pancake paste “like concrete” in her airway.
The Nelson family is seeking damages in excess of $15,000.
“Caitlin’s family is bringing this case to expose the dangers associated with amateur eating contests and to help prevent other families from having to endure this kind of preventable tragedy,” Katie Mesner-Hage, of the law firm Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, which represents the family, said in a statement.
“These contests are significantly more dangerous than people realize and it’s critically important for the public — especially educational institutions, to understand that certain foods are safer than others and a modicum of forethought can literally save lives.”
“There wasn’t anyone more selfless than her.”
Nelson was majoring in social work at the Catholic university and was vice president of her Kappa Delta sorority’s community service group.
Outside of school, she planned Girl Scout events, and was certified in youth mental health first aid.
Nelson was also a volunteer at the Resiliency Center of Newtown, a nonprofit organization, where she mentored children who were impacted by the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting.
“There wasn’t anyone more selfless than her. She always had a smile, always there for the kids no matter what you asked of her she would do it and she did it with such grace and such love,” Nelson’s close friend Stephanie Cinque told PEOPLE. “She was a beautiful human being.”
Nelson’s father was James Nelson, a Port Authority officer who died during the September 11 terrorist attacks. He had been evacuating people on the 27th floor of one of the Twin Towers when it collapsed.
Nelson previously told tapintoclark.net that it was her father’s death that influenced her to do good in the world.
“It’s about healing and helping. It’s about paying it forward.”