UConn basketball players surprise Dunkin’ customers to support children’s hospitals

MANCHESTER — Brian Roy has had a number of different smiles.

On Tuesday, the first grader showed off his latest work as he pulled up on a drive through Dunkin’ in Manchester handing out gift cards and T-shirts in celebration of National Iced Coffee Day — the day when $1 of every iced coffee purchased is donated to Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation Foundation directly benefits Connecticut Children’s Hospitals and Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital.

Roy, Connecticut Children’s Patient Ambassador, was born with a cleft lip and palate that was discovered in the womb and required multiple surgeries to help correct it. He has had four surgeries since birth and his smile has been modified with each operation.

After Roy initially greeted customers at the first drive window, 7-foot-tall Donovan Clingan came up from behind, leaned over so his face could be seen through the window and surprised everyone who came in for a coffee.

Alex Karaban, in the second window, stood and waited patiently while Clingan bided his time engaging with the fans and with Roy, signing whatever was 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. He’s thriving now, but it’s definitely not over. He’s in the middle of his medical journey and has a lot of surgeries ahead. But to be able to have some of these very fun activities, and to be able to act is not just Craniofacial department and the Craniofacial Society, but for all the kids at Connecticut Kids, it’s been an amazing experience.”

Inside the building, which was packed with customers (and mascots for both UConn and Dunkin’), Hassan Diarra stood behind the counter handing out orders, signing T-shirts that said “Dunkin'” on the box with the hashtag “HU5KIES” underneath—the number five representing the national championship. 5 that the UConn men claimed in April.

Donovan Clingan of UConn Makes Children’s Day at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital through Dunkin’ Partnership

UConn program members have worked with Dunkin’ for NIL opportunities that often provide them with a chance to return the favor—Jordan Hawkins distributed cupcakes on campus in March and visited Clingan Children at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital in late April. Artistic Director Dan Hurley also surprised Dunkin’ customers at other locations to promote Iced Coffee Day.

Dunkin’s Iced Coffee Day has raised more than $1.8 million to support children at children’s hospitals across the country.

“It means everything,” Karaban said. That’s why we’re here, to give money to hospitals. It’s bigger than basketball, just to use our platform that we have to give back to the community is one thing – that’s really what we play for.”

Roy represented Connecticut for kids when he threw the first pitch at the Hartford Yard Goats game on Sunday. Karaban makes a first round of the stadium on his own. He was invited by the Worcester Red Sox, near where he grew up in Southboro, Massachusetts, and threw what he claims was a Friday strikeout.

“It was a little sucker, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I didn’t want to embarrass myself but it was all good — it was a strike. People don’t think it was a strike based on the format [in photos posted by the team]But it was a strike.”

IN SAFE HANDS: Andre Jackson says Donovan Clingan, Alex Karaban will keep UConn’s future bright

Bristol native Karapan and Clingan plan to throw their first pitch before a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park sometime in July, a date yet to be determined.

“It’s so much fun interacting with UConn fans and then working on this big series that I grew up with so much I get to eat every day,” said Karapan. “It sure is a lot of fun.”

Roy, a UConn fan himself who may or may not have bribed his manager with donuts, had just as much fun interacting with the players he had just watched win the national championship.

“We live in UConn country so we’ve been rooting for them,” said Amanda. “You have to be when you’re here, right?”

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