Not everything has to be so formal or meticulously planned.
Sometimes, simply holding the door for someone else, saying ‘hi’ to a stranger or asking how someone’s day is going is exactly what the moment demands. Often times, the more spontaneous, the better.
That’s the type of spirit a group of Tuscarora High School students are looking to foster through their Acts of Kindness campaign.
The movement was started by four Tuscarora students — Damian Qualls, Nick Whitney, Cooper Barton and Geoff Worsey — following the untimely deaths this year of friends and fellow Tuscarora students Will Enten and Ernesto Chacon.
“They were the kind of people that make this community great,” Qualls said. “They never wanted to be noticed for what they did. Now that they are gone, we just wanted to keep their spirit alive.”
Enten, who died after a prolonged bout with cancer at age 18, was known for his perpetually positive attitude and always having a smile on his face, no matter the hardships he faced.
He played lacrosse growing up and loved basketball. He served as a manager for the Tuscarora basketball team for three years and hoped to make the varsity team one day. He regularly attended summer workouts and camps and often participated in non-contact drills during practice.
Following his death on Jan. 31, the Tuscarora basketball team honored Enten during a Senior Night ceremony by displaying his name and number (20) on the back of a cardboard jersey.
Chacon, on the other hand, was killed in an accident while working underneath his car shortly after graduating from Tuscarora in June. He loved working on cars and was an aspiring engineer.
He played football and lacrosse for the Titans and was known for his leadership skills and perpetual acts of kindness. He once offered his jacket to a homeless stranger.
“We wanted to change the bad news of [their deaths] into something positive because they were the good in the world that we lost,” Qualls said.
Over the summer, the four students began brainstorming various things they could do to honor their friends. They hoped to come up with 45 ideas because that is the number Chacon wore for the Tuscarora football team.
With the full support of their families and the athletic administration, the community at Tuscarora quickly rallied behind their cause.
The boys basketball team partnered with the “I Believe in Me” campaign to collect and distribute food to those in need. The baseball and unified bocce team did a “Stuff the Bus” event to collect school supplies, and the wrestling team gathered needed supplies for the Frederick Health Hospital Pediatric Unit, among other efforts.
Then, for three hours Wednesday evening, the Tuscarora football team collected bags of clothing at the school for a local Goodwill chapter. Within the first hour of its effort, it had their first truck load ready to go.
“This all happened organically,” Titans football coach Curtiss Belcher said. “It was a bunch of guys that just wanted to help and do something to honor their friends.”
Many acts of kindness don’t have to be that organized or complex.
Worsey and fellow Tuscarora lacrosse player Jayme Helflin recently took cookies to a local fire department to say thanks.
“[Ernesto and Will] were always out to do small things because they knew small things go a long way,” Qualls said.