There's never a bad time to remember those we've lost.

Lifelong residents of Dryden will never forget the passings of Steve Starr in 1994, as well as Jennifer Bolduc and Sarah Hajney in 1996. The community hasn't forgotten either, putting up memorials and symbols as ways of leaving behind a legacy.

Now, Dryden High School and Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) are going to take it another step further by holding an annual Walk to Remember and giving away a scholarship as a way of remembrance and community growth.

"Back last fall when they were doing the Rachel's Challenge at Dryden High School, someone had asked me if I'd help in redoing the memorial garden at the high school," said Rhonda Kowalski-Oltz of TC3. "It was a part of the community service aspect of Rachel's Challenge. It had been 20 years since Steve Starr was killed, but the (current high school) kids weren't even born when that had happened."

The idea of cleaning up the memorial garden spun into a re-dedication of the rock at the garden, and a first annual Walk to Remember. The tragedies still hang in the lives of lifelong residents, but effect high school students in a different way. By putting the focus back on the garden, it's a ceremonial way for students to learn about the history of the community and the effects those events had on their lives.

"The Walk to Remember will be like Relay for Life, but for the people we lost in Dryden," explained Kowalski-Oltz.

The group, called Lion Legacy, will hold a rock dedication during Dryden's Homecoming (tentatively scheduled for September 26) and the Walk to Remember the following day. The plan is to raise enough money to donate two $500 scholarships to deserving seniors and "continue it for years to come."

Kowalski-Oltz says the re-dedication and walk will be a way to unite the community together and bring people closer, just like the people who rallied together in the 90s when Dryden went through years of heartbreak.

"We went through tragedy," said Kowalski-Oltz. "We got stronger and we did it together. We have unity. We don't want somebody being forgotten."

The Walk to Remember won't just be for the three lost lives from 20 years ago. The rock dedication will just honor Starr, as his legacy was the reasoning behind the rock in the first place, but the walk will be for remembrance of all passed loved ones in the Dryden community. Anyone is eligible to participate and represent their family and friends.

"We are walking for anyone who has been connected to the community," said Kowalski-Oltz. "Somebody involved or connected to the high school, or school administrators or support staff. Some have been active members of the community through sports or grants or other organizations."

Interest in the Homecoming weekend events has been obvious to those putting it together. Kowalski-Oltz says that they have had over 1100 likes between two Facebook groups of people looking for more information. She says that nobody has questioned the reasoning behind the events.

"It's just nice to see everybody come together and want to create a legacy for Dryden," she said.

Lion Legacy is asking for donations -- and you can find out how to do so and track the progress at www.facebook.com/DrydenLionLegacy -- that will go to help fund all the events. For the walk, they will need to buy luminary bags and insurance to use the track. They also need help funding the two scholarships. Recipients of the scholarship will be a senior who "embodies the qualities of teamwork, dedication and strength."

Kowalski-Oltz says that the foundation has been working tightly with the high school and has the full support from. They are also hoping to have help from current students, even if they are not directly effected by the town's past.

Their catchphrase throughout the process of putting everything together is: We Are One. It's a means of showcasing that town pride and unity, and that they are strong enough to overcome the terrible events of the last 20 years.

"For a while, we were labeled the Village of the Damned," said Kowalski-Oltz. "It’s how we were identified, it’s not who we are. We are one."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

This is a space for civil feedback and conversation. A few guidelines: 1. be kind and courteous. 2. no hate speech or bullying. 3. no promotions or spam. If necessary, we will ban members who do not abide by these standards.

Recommended for you