The following is a letter from Hartsville High School after the tragic loss of football player Ronald Rouse last week. Rouse died after collapsing at last Friday night's game against Crestwood.
This letter was titled: A Heartfelt Thank You from Hartsville High School.
At Hartsville High School, we have the saying "We areâ?¦Red Foxes." Last week, we learned that this saying isn't just about the 1250 students and 130 staff. Instead, we discovered that thousands more, including people we have never met, are part of the Red Fox family.
With the tragic and sudden death of our Ronald Rouse, the HHS community learned tremendous lessons of friendship and felt the loving support of friends and strangers alike. Our school is truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of grief and show of support by our community and friends around the world. Our brothers and sisters at the Governor's School of Science and Math created a banner for us that reads "There is hope in the darkest days." What an apt description of the roller coaster of emotions we feel.
The darkness of Ronald's death at our Homecoming game brought us to our knees. Yet the kindness we've witnessed has been uplifting. Crestwood High School sent us a banner with personal messages and many of their players and coaches attended Ronald's funeral. Their shared grief and sportsmanship are mighty examples of qualities that often seem lacking between opponents. Our girls' volleyball teams and boys' soccer teams played against opponents who wore red ribbons or bore the #74 on their uniforms. Schools from around the state sent flowers, plants, remembrance banners, game balls, and many heartfelt prayers and wishes. Athletic Director Phyllis Griggs and Coach Jeff Calabrese lost count of the number of coaches from around the state and country who called or sent letters. Even Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney and USC expressed support for Rouse's family and the school. We had calls and emails from people as far away as New Zealand and Afghanistan. A football team in Quebec observed a moment of silence prior to their Friday night game. We at HHS have experienced that the world is small when tragedy strikes. Yet, we felt how warm the world can be when we share and encourage each other.
We were heartened by the Red Fox signs, stickers, and flags. We saw church signs asking for prayers for us and we read the posts of grief and hope on Facebook and Twitter. We couldn't miss the flags flying at half-mast and the tributes on You-tube. St. Luke UMC hosted a community prayer service. The entire school wore red on Monday, but we saw students from other schools and people around town wearing red as well. Regardless of our political, religious, racial, or socio-economic differences, we all feel grief and we all need support, don't we?
Our children, and they are all someone's child, needed adults to literally and figuratively wrap arms of comfort around them. Since April, we have lost three family members--Jymeke, Bayy, and Ronald. Last week, we had Rubicon counselors, ministers, youth directors, and parents who assisted our guidance counselors and teachers with helping students cope. Wal-Mart donated snacks, bottled water, and tissues for grieving students as they filtered in and out of the counseling center. Dawkins Concrete, Roses, Hicks Nursery, and Home Depot donated supplies and equipment so that a group of parents and students could spruce up the school's entrance. Heritage Bank set up a savings account for the family's expenses. School groups are selling red wristbands and t-shirts to raise money. It seems that many of us find that work can ease that helpless feeling we experience when something unthinkable happens. Students are working, planning, organizing, sharing, and caring together. Aren't these qualities that our good teachers strive to instill in our students everyday?
We are truly grateful for the doctors, trainers, and EMS who valiantly tried to save our friend as we could only stand helplessly in the stands. We will never forget the stunned grief of the fans, coaches, and players-no matter on what side of the field they were standing. Ronald's death was awful and gut-wrenching. Yet we have seen faith renewed-whether it's faith in family, friendship, community, or in God. Thank you Hartsville, and the world beyond, for reminding us that the world is good, people are kind, and community spirit is alive. You have taught us that we are ALLâ?¦Red Foxes.
Lyn S. Joyce
HHS Community Liaison
Hartsville High School