BRUNSWICK — Community members and members of St. Ambrose Catholic Parish gathered at the base of a hill behind the church Thursday to honor the lives of four Brunswick High School students killed last spring in a car accident.
Jeffrey Chaya, 18; Blake Bartchak, 17; Lexi Poerner, 16; and Kevin Fox, 18 all were St. Ambrose parishioners, and the church and the community pulled together in the days and months following their deaths to make sure they were not forgotten.
David Harley and other volunteers helped to form the Brunswick Blue Pride Foundation, with the goal of raising scholarship funds in the students’ memory and making a positive impact on the community.
“The community came together and said, ‘What can we do?’ ” Harley said. “I think we’ve done a lot.”
Fundraising efforts have ensured a memorial scholarship fund will be in place for at least the next 10 years, and other efforts are under way to improve driving education for all teens in Medina County.
Harley said the Blue Pride Foundation is working with local police departments to give all students of driving age the chance to take a hands-on safe-driving course. The course includes driving a specially enhanced car that mimics skidding so students can learn how to properly avoid spinning out of control.
“It’s not a lecture,” he said. “It’s fun. It was available for all students who had a ticket, but now they’re offering it for everyone.”
The Rev. Bob Stec, of St. Ambrose, said he hopes the memorial wall featuring a statue of Jesus with areas to sit and reflect will be a hopeful gathering place for the community.
The memorial dedication Thursday kicked off a four-day festival at St. Ambrose, 929 Pearl Road, with a “Go Blue” theme.
“This night, this weekend, is about gathering the community together,” Stec said.
Former Ohio State University head coach Jim Tressel was invited to speak at the memorial.
“One year ago, you taught us how to come together and how to love one another,” Tressel told the crowd.
Tressel, who now serves as vice president of strategic engagement at the University of Akron, said he easily can spot Brunswick graduates on campus in their bright blue, Brunswick pride T-shirts.
“Our prayers have been with you and will remain with you,” he said.
Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.