Coughlin honored with CRI’s Franklin Courageous Spirit Award
AGAWAM – The Container Recycling Institute (CRI) has awarded its 2021 Franklin Courageous Spirit Award to John W. “Jack” Coughlin Jr.
Coughlin was paralyzed from the neck down after being struck by a car in January of this year while picking up litter.
“He was a passionate person. Since I have been organizing the cleanup, he has been out doing his own cleanup. He was not doing it for us; he was doing it for the environment, people in general, animals just to make this world a better place.” said Sheryl Becker, board member of the Westfield River Watershed Association.
Becker shared that she was thrilled to hear that he won and that he deserved it before the accident, and he truly earned the reward. Becker said knowing that he won the award would make him feel good, and it made her feel good.
This year the Westfield River Watershed Association is hosting two spring river cleanup events on April 24 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., one in Agawam and one in Westfield. The rain date will be April 25. This year’s cleanup is to honor Coughlin.
Those who would like to participate in the Agawam cleanup must meet at Pynchon Point at 9 a.m. There is no registration to participate. Those who are interested can just show up.
President of CRI Susan Collins said the award is named for the institutes late founder Patricia Franklin, who grew the nonprofit organization from a small operation to an international authority to recycle beverage containers and consumer packaging.
Collins said when they learned of the accident, the board knew that they had to give the award to Coughlin because he shares many of Franklin’s same characteristics.
“The similarities between what inspired her to act and the actions that she took were so strong when comparing with Jack Coughlin because he was the same way. He was someone who saw a problem and worked himself to solve it,” Collins said.
She continued to say that he walked and picked up litter as he went, but then, in addition to that, he would go to the Statehouse to talk to Legislatures to try to get them to pass legislation that would put an end to the beverage container litter.
Becker shared that years ago, Coughlin proposed to add a bottle deposit to miniature bottles of alcohol, also know as nips.
The Agawam’s City Council recently supported it and sent a letter in support to state legislators urging them to support it as well. Becker said that state Sen. John Velis cosponsored it, and state Rep. Nick Boldyga is working for it to pass as well.
“Another huge inspiration for us to do this is because we were really trying to help his family. They have the GoFundMe, and they obviously have an incredible challenge that they are dealing with right now, and we wanted to do what we could to help bring attention to it,” Collins said.
Sean Coughlin, Jack’s son, said the family was grateful when they found out that he won the award.
CRI put together a video with the award announcement featuring testimonials from Collins, Agawam Mayor William Sapelli, Becker, City Councilor George Bitzas, Velis, and Boldyga.
Sean said his father cannot speak, but he mouthed the word wow after seeing the video that CRI made for him.
Although Sean is grateful, he said his father was so much more than someone who just picked up litter.
“So many people really understand him as kind of the guy who picks up trash, but he did so much more, which makes him that much more an incredible person because he spent most of his time doing that non-stop, but he was still able to accomplish so much more in his lifetime,” said Sean.
After 15 years of fighting for renovations of the Medina Street Boat Ramp, the upgrades have been completed, but Sean says Jack will never be able to walk on it.
Sean shared with Reminder Publishing that his father was an activist for neighborhood improvements.
Jack was an advocate for building a new soccer field and playground at Treetop Park on Corcoran Boulevard, and he was a founder of the…