Barden Benner Carter Memorial Fund turns 10

Ten years. Can it possibly be? How did we make it through that dreadful night and the painful days, months and years that followed?

In the early morning hours of Sunday, Feb. 11, 2001, my son Kyle Barden was one of five teenage boys driving home from a party. There was a collision. Miraculously Scott Greggor and Greg Uguccini survived. Greg lives with some injuries that are permanent. Brendon Brenner, Milton Carter II and Kyle, who were all members of the Cleveland Heights High School varsity hockey team, perished that morning, leaving behind mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, a niece and countless friends.

The old advice, to "make something good out of a tragedy," holds true in this case. The first part of the healing process began with dashboard cards. Many of the boys’ friends and families came together and produced laminated cards that became a reminder to always be safe behind the wheel of a car. Some of you may still have one. A group of students, including my daughter Abi, went to area schools to share their story of loss and implore other students to value friendship, family and themselves.

We formed a memorial board as donations poured in. The generosity of the Cleveland Heights community and the entire suburban hockey community has been amazing. Should I be surprised by this strong community? I knew then, and know now, that the answer to this is "no." Hockey families are famous for coming together and acting as one—friends and family will always be there, through thick and thin. My dearest friend, Justine Carter, Milton’s mom, taught me faith and acceptance. I am a better person because of her.

Our first event was a CHHS Hockey Alumni Game, in which more than 70 hockey players skated in honor of our sons. That event, along with a golf outing, have become annual traditions. These events are not just for hockey players to participate in, but also for friends and family. It warms my heart to see the love and camaraderie people have for one another and for our families.

Over the last 10 years, with the support of an amazing and dedicated memorial fund board, we have been able to award 32 scholarships, totaling over $60,000, to CHHS students. Awards from $1,000 to $3,000 are given to help defray some of the cost of a college education--tuition, textbooks, computers or other needs that may arise. We hope to continue our scholarship program for many years to come.

Supporting varsity and youth hockey programs has also been our focus. We continue to look for ways to attract new players to the program, not only through financial assistance, but also by working with the parents of kids in the programs.

If you have stepped into the courtyard of the high school recently, you may have noticed a memorial in the southwest corner. This is meant to be a reminder to us all of the value of friendship and necessity for safety. It is never too early or too late to teach your children about responsibility, and, please, always remember to let your friends and family know you love them.

Ann Kramer, mother of Kyle Barden, is treasurer of the Barden Benner Carter Memorial Fund and a lifelong Heights resident.

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Volume 4, Issue 1, Posted 1:48 PM, 11.30.2010