Student-Athlete, 20, Dies After Hot Dog Eating Contest at Charity Fundraiser: 'Beyond Heartbroken'

·4 min read
Madie Nicpon
Madie Nicpon

Tufts University Athletics Madie Nicpon

The Tufts University community is mourning the death of student Madie Nicpon.

A 20-year-old junior who played for the Tufts women's lacrosse team, Nicpon died following a Saturday event "at an off-campus, private rental property in Somerville where the house's residents were holding a fundraiser for a charity," according to a message sent out by the school on Monday and obtained by PEOPLE.

The student choked while participating in a charity hot dog eating contest, according to the Rockland/Westchester Journal News. The competition was held as part of a "Play for Pink" event for breast cancer awareness, ABC station WCVB reported.

"After first responders performed life-saving procedures on site, Madie was transported to Mt. Auburn Hospital and subsequently transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital, where she passed away on Sunday afternoon," Tufts officials said in the statement.

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About 3,000 people attended a candlelit vigil to honor the late student-athlete on Sunday, the school said. The memorial was held at Bello Field, where Nicpon and her teammates played their home games.

"The number of community members who turned out to lend support to each other, to Madie's friends, and to her family was a testament to how many lives Madie touched during her time at Tufts," school officials wrote in a letter. "In the face of this painful loss, our hearts go out to Madie's family and friends."

Madie Nicpon
Madie Nicpon

Facebook Madie Nicpon

In a heartfelt tribute from her teammates, Nicpon was remembered as someone whose spirit "touched every single person she met."

"We are beyond heartbroken to share the news of the passing of Junior Madie Nicpon — 'Scooter,' " they wrote. "Scooter was a true friend and teammate. She truly valued her relationships with her teammates and coaches. Her reach was far beyond our team."

"She has and will continue to inspire us every day. We should all strive to live life a little bit more like Scooter did — a person that valued love, loyalty, compassion and friendship," the team continued. "We love you, Scooter. Keep dancing from above💙🐘."

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Before attending Tufts, Nicpon played on the field hockey and indoor track teams at Suffern High School, where she graduated in the top 10% of her class, according to her team bio.

Nicpon​​ was a firm believer in having a dance party before every game and said her dream job was to be a contestant on Love Island U.K.

She is survived by her parents, Kathy and Chris Nicpon, and brothers Brian and Mikey.

Madie Nicpon
Madie Nicpon

Grant Halverson/NCAA Photos via Getty Madie Nicpon and teammates

Off the field, Nicpon studied biopsychology and "was an active member of the Tufts community," working with pre-orientation and community service programs, according to a statement from Tufts Women's Lacrosse.

"She was a true light for the Tufts campus community who was genuinely a friend to all," said head coach Courtney Shute. "Madie made time for everyone and cared deeply for people. Her personality was larger than life and brought a constant smile to those around her."

"She touched people deeply and had a unique and special ability to make people feel truly seen through a combination of her own vulnerability and her desire to make each person she encountered feel valued and loved," Shute said.

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The Tufts Community Union Senate also mourned the death of Nicpon.

"Madie was a beloved member of so many groups, teams, and clubs at Tufts and will be dearly missed. We hope that members of our union support each other any way they can as we grieve together," the Tufts Community Union Senate wrote in a statement.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help Nicpon's family cover funeral and medical expenses.

"Madie Nicpon was a beautiful and brilliant daughter, granddaughter, sister, and friend. Her contagious smile and laughter lit up every room," read a message on the online fundraiser. "Her generosity and kindness has left a lasting impact on those around her."

As of Thursday, the GoFundMe page has raised over $160,000.