Brittany has always been a compassionate person; she wouldn’t hurt a fly and she will go out of her way to help anyone in need. She inspires me to be a better person everyday. I’m so proud to be able to call her my sister and I couldn’t be any more proud of the person she has grown to become.
When Britt’s class was thinking about senior project ideas, she struggled. She wanted to do something different from anyone else, and be able to leave a lasting impression for years down the road. Around the time they were working on projects was when Brooklyn Runion passed away. Brooklyn left an impact on not only SSHS and our community, but our entire county. We had other schools supporting Brooklyn by wearing shirts, bracelets, pink and green socks, etc. to let everyone know that Brooklyn was on everyone’s mind and heart. It was devastating to hear that she would not be returning to school, because she had gone home to be with the Lord.
As Brittany juggled multiple ideas that she could have done, I told her that she was able to create a monument at our family business, why not do something in memory for Brooklyn? Being the kind hearted person Britt is, she loved the idea-but she wanted to do something that included all of the Shady students, teachers, and alumni that we have had pass away over the years. So, she took the idea for a memorial and pushed it a little further so that nobody would be left out, and the benches became more than just an idea.
Brittany didn’t just throw some designs together; she worked incredibly hard on every single detail in the memorials. She consulted with Brooklyn’s mom to make sure that the bench would represent her daughter in a way that would be acceptable to her. On the Shady bench, she went as far as to include the Alma Mater (which she had to do some research on because who actually knows it by memory?) and hand draw the Shady logo.
It took Brittany well over the 24-hour time that was required for her senior project-both benches took 2 weeks (or 80 hours). She wanted to make sure every aspect was perfect before they were revealed to the community. As far as keeping the benches a secret, she did a really good job. She didn’t want anyone to know about them until they were set on the school property, aside from the principal, teacher, and close friends. Near the end of creating the benches, she decided to add a special touch to Brooklyn’s that not even her mom know about. She painted the butterfly and filigree Brooklyn’s favorite colors-pink and green.
For me, it felt like forever from the time the benches were complete to the time they were set at the school, so I know it felt even longer for Britt. Finally, God blessed her with the weather that made it possible to get the memorials put in their places. Brittany actually didn’t get to see them completely set until we got off work on Monday. As we drove home, we were under a severe thunderstorm warning and it was pouring the rain. Lightening and thunder filled the air and the wind whipped through the trees, trying to rip anything off the ground that it could. When we got to the stoplight before the school, the clouds broke and the sun was shining. The rain began to disappear as we drove closer to the school. When we got to the benches, Brittany jumped out of the car and cried. Her project was finished, and the benches were absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t do anything but smile. I was speechless that she did this all herself.
Though the benches will never replace the people that they honor, they serve as a reminder that they are always with us. They give students a place to sit and talk to their lost friends, or just to think. They are there to remind us of all of the memories, to help us heal, and to be a light at the end of the tunnel when we needed it most.