Thanks to the Oxford Chamber of Commerce another scholarship will be awarded to a deserving student in memory of an Oxford High School teen whose life was tragically cut short by suicide.
On Monday morning, the chamber presented a $1,000 check – a portion of the proceeds from its June 15 golf luncheon – to Darrin and Amy Hafeli, founders of the Pay It Forward Scholarship.
“It’s amazing the support we’re getting,” Amy said. “I’m at a loss for words.”
Established by the Hafelis in 2016, the Pay it Forward Scholarship honors the memory of their daughter Megan Abbott, who took her own life in 2013 at the age of 15. She was a freshman at OHS.
“Darrin and I, with the loss of Megan, we just felt we needed to do something to give back to our community and encourage love and kindness,” Amy said.
Since starting the scholarship, they’ve awarded $6,500 to eight students.
“My husband and I, we automatically give $1,000 out of our personal funds,” Amy noted. “There’s always one (scholarship) that we give. That’s guaranteed.”
Darrin sincerely believes lending high school students a helping hand in furthering their education is something Megan would have wanted.
“I’m glad to be able to help these kids do this,” he said.
In order to qualify, an applicant must be a graduating OHS senior who plans to attend a college, university, vocational school or trade school and reflects “the spirit of a ‘pay it forward’ philosophy in their life.”
Applicants must demonstrate “a positive attitude, good citizenship in the school community, and a spirit of service and friendship (to) others.” They must “reflect . . . a concern for classmates and respect for others.”
“We’re hoping that it will encourage others to (commit) random acts of kindness in a time when we really need it,” Amy explained. “If (Megan) was here today, she’d be proud of it.”
By encouraging folks to spread kindness on a daily basis, the hope is that type of supportive atmosphere will “prevent suicide, help those with mental illness and bring those in the community closer together,” according to the Pay It Forward Scholarship website.
Amy noted Megan lived the pay-it-forward philosophy every day of her short life.
“She was always doing for others,” she said. “She was always reaching out (to people) and looking out for others. She never took care of herself. She was always too worried about everybody else.”
At the bottom of every Pay It Forward Scholarship application is a “heart signature” from Megan.
“She signed all of her artwork with that,” said Amy, who noted Megan loved to draw rainbows, sunsets and flowers.
Next year, there will be at least three $1,000 Pay It Forward scholarships available thanks to Megan’s parents, the chamber of commerce and an individual who approached Amy at the golf luncheon with an offer to donate $1,000 annually from now on.
“I really was in shock. I didn’t know what to say. I actually cried,” she said. “I couldn’t ever say anything bad about Oxford. It’s just a great community.”
Amy is hoping to raise enough money to award four or more scholarships next year. To that end, there’s a fund-raiser scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 18 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Lone Wolf Paintball (4099 S. Lapeer Rd.) in Metamora.
For those who preregister, the cost is $35 and that includes the rental of a standard gun and mask, 200 paintballs and the entrance fee. On the day of the event, the cost is $45.
To register, please visit the website www.payitforwardoxford.com.
Amy noted the scholarship committee is seeking volunteers to help with things such as coming up with fund-raising ideas and implementing them.
“We definitely need more people,” she said.
When thinking of Megan, Amy misses her “goofiness,” her laughter, “her big hugs,” their talks and all the fun they used to have together.
“We’d get so silly with each other,” she said. “I just miss her – even the bad parts when she was crabby and lippy and being a teenager. I still miss her.”
If she had the opportunity to speak with her daughter one more time, Amy said she would tell her, “Stay with me forever. Don’t ever leave me. I love you.”