For Carson and Mack
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 29, 2005 1:52 PM
It started with a sweatshirt. Nothing fancy -- just a few dozen iron-on letters and a simple, red heart.
Conner Childers, Justin Bucher and Drake Pieper knew they had to do something when they heard their friends, Mackenzie Wessels and Carson Thomas, had been hit by a car outside school Nov. 18.
They, like the rest of their classmates, wanted Carson and Mackenzie to know their friends were thinking of them and anxiously awaiting their return home.
So, the weekend after they heard the news, football and loafing turned into sweatshirt-making for Conner and Justin.
"We knew that people needed something positive," Conner said. "So we decided to do something about it."
On the breast of Conner's black hooded sweatshirt, a red iron-on heart sits above three words -- Carson and Mac. He said it's a way to keep his friends in the thoughts of those who see him walking the halls at school.
"Mack's in my band class," he said. "He's been in my class since the sixth grade."
Justin also used iron-on lettering for his design, arranging the names of both of his friends into a cross. He said the shirts are helping him and his classmates stay focused on the hope that one day Carson and Mackenzie will be back at Greenwood.
"We've been wearing them (sweatshirts) every day," he said. "People ask how they were made, and I think it made them really happy."
Drake's shirt was simple -- his friends' names written on the white cloth with black marker. He said he wanted to raise awareness about the accident.
"People need to be aware that it could've been anyone at any time," he said.
Drake was not best friends with Carson or Mackenzie, he said, but they were classmates; two boys he hung out with from time to time.
He added his father, who is also in the military, has always told him to reach out to others and to treat everyone he meets like family.
"My dad taught me that if somebody gets hurt, you help them," Drake said. "You may not know them well, but they are still family."
Greenwood principal Larry Dean said the boys have set a positive example for the entire school community and that faculty and staff have been impressed with their dedication to Mackenzie and Carson -- emotion they say is unusual for 13-year-old boys.
"They definitely caught the eyes of the teachers immediately," said Dean, who has a picture of the three boys dressed in their handmade tributes outside his office.
But sweatshirts weren't enough for the boys. They wanted to do more for their friends.
So, they went to Pitt Memorial Hospital this weekend.
"We both went to see Carson's family at the hospital," Conner said. "We got to be with his brother for a while, and he and Carson's mom were in high spirits."
The boys also dropped in on Mackenzie, who was recently released from the hospital.
"We visited him this weekend," Justin said. "He's doing fine."
The boys are not the only ones thinking about Carson and Mackenzie at Greenwood, either. Their efforts have inspired all sorts of tributes.
Some students have made cards, drawn pictures or are designing their own shirts.
"After we started wearing the sweatshirts, other kids started making things, too," Childers said.
One eighth-grader, Angel Saldaña, made a card. Featured on one side are hands clapsed in prayer, a rosary dangling from the fingers. On the other is a personal note to his classmates.
Although the picture only took 30 minutes to make, it was more than just a drawing, he said.
"There is an emotional side to it," Angel said. "Don't give up."
The boy added he is still working on other drawings, one for Carson and another for Mackenzie.
Other students wrote poetry, signed large banners and cards and prayed.
But Justin and Conner are not finished yet.
They recently made a recording for Carson, hoping that their voices will bring him strength and help bring their friend home.
"He's (Carson) a good person," Conner said. "Now he can listen to our thoughts and prayers from the tape we made."
And although they are getting noticed for their own acts of kindness, the boys want to make sure no one forgets the friends who motivated them to act in the first place.
"Carson is really nice," Justin said. "Whenever you need him, you can count on him to be there for you."
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