We all have our motivation for doing charitable acts. Whether it's as simple as wanting to improve your community or as poignant as honoring a loved one's memory, those thoughts and desires inspire us to give and help. It's that thinking that led to the canned food drive held at the Coach Wood Invitational cross country meet this past weekend to be named for Tajay Hoppines and Hope McKenzie.
Hoppines and McKenzie, both with strong ties to the cross country community, passed away in the last year. And when organizers of the Coach Wood meet were thinking of a way to honor the two, they couldn't think of anything that would speak to the kindness of the honorees more than the food drive, which benefits the Southeast Gwinnett Cooperative Ministry.
"We just thought it was fitting to attach their names to a cause that will help others, since both Hope and Tajay always went out of their way to help others," said Andy Christie, Mill Creek's boys coach and one of the meet organizers.
Hoppines ran for Christie at Mill Creek and went on to Valdosta State to be a part of that team. A three-year letterman at Mill Creek, Hoppines had high hopes for college but drowned this summer after going swimming in a Florida river after a training run.
"Tajay was caring and compassionate," Christie said. "He always had a smile on his face and was always doing some goofy dance or saying some random thing that made us laugh. He showed his love and appreciation for all, even if they didn't show it back."
McKenzie was cut from similar cloth. The daughter of Willie and Susan McKenzie (her dad formerly taught at Shiloh and then was president of the Grayson Booster Club for cross country) died in a car accident. She had been to the Coach Wood race several times before, cheering on her sister Caitlin, a standout for Grayson, and the food drive was the perfect way to honor her in a way very dear to her heart.
"For the funeral Hope's parents asked that donations be made in lieu of flowers to the Southeast Gwinnett Cooperative Ministries," Christie said. "Hope had volunteered at the co-op when she was a youngster, and Willie and Susan want her memory to count for something in the community."
More than 500 cans were collected at this year's race, a nice tribute to Hope and Tajay. But just because the race is over doesn't mean the need for your donation is. In these tough times, food donations are needed more than ever at all of the co-ops in Gwinnett. So whether it's to honor these two youngsters who went well before their time, or to remember a friend or family member, take some time this week to visit your local co-op and make a donation.
It will not only help others, but help you pay tribute to special people, like Hope and Tajay.
Email Todd Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Wednesdays.