Witnesses at a Greek Life dinner saw Nelson eat four or five pancakes before falling to the floor, shaking uncontrollably, according to a story in the Fairfield Citizen.
Caitlin Nelson, a junior studying social work at the CT college, had eaten four or five pancakes on Friday when she started shaking uncontrollably and collapsed.
"That's exactly what Caitlin would have wanted, that's just the type of selfless person she was", close friend Stephanie Cinque tells PEOPLE.
She was also a volunteer at the Resiliency Center, a Newtown, Connecticut nonprofit which assists people suffering in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Police said that Nelson had several food allergies and was choking during the pancake eating contest.
Her father, James, was a Port Authority police officer who died on 9/11. "Like her dad, who gave all he possibly could in the final moments of his life so others may live, Caitlin also gave all she could so others live". "She was really loved".
Caitlin studied at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut with a scholarship offered to the orphans of the September 11 attacks.
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Her vital organs have been harvested and will be used to help other patients. Caitlin was the philanthropy chair for her sorority and had set a goal to raise $15,000 for their national charity event called Shamrock the Runway for Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA). "It's about healing and helping".
Students remembered Nelson during a candlelight vigil on campus Sunday and the university is making counselors available for Nelson's sorority sisters and members of the Sacred Heart community. Here at SHU, when one of us is hurt, we all hurt; when one of us excels, we all celebrate.
Finally, if you are looking for another way to honor Caitlin's memory, I have a suggestion.
Please keep Caitlin, her loved ones, and the entire Sacred Heart community, in your prayers.
Local authorities told reporters that nursing students attending the event performed lifesaving procedures on Nelson before being transported to the nearest hospital.