By R. Alan Richardson
In the tragic aftermath of losing their son, Seth, after a Homecoming football game this past season, Ray, Angela, and Drew Stapleton have shown more courage and faith than most of us could even think about mustering up. Ray said, “We want to thank our community for their support for encouraging us.” Their strength actually encourages us more than we could ever encourage them.
The family has created a non-profit in Seth’s memory called the Seth Stapleton Memorial Fund. The fund provided four student-athletes scholarships on senior night of $500 each. The criteria for consideration included that the student had to be nominated by a coach and had to be an athlete in that program.
Stapleton commented, “We received donations from other schools on our schedule that included Jones County, Elbert County, and Oconee County. Other gifts and contributions came from family, friends, coaches, teachers, and others in the community. Originally we were going to give one to a female and one to a male athlete. However, since it was Seth’s senior class, we decided to give four.” The recipients were Kaylee Darsey (cheerleader and softball), Levi Ewing (football and golf), Anslyn Stamps (softball), and Sam Couch (baseball and football).
“These four will be great ambassadors of Seth’s legacy. We want people to know who Seth was and what he stood for. We hope to establish a foundation that educates young people about driving when you’re too tired to drive and driving while under the influence. I’m thankful that alcohol was not a factor in Seth’s accident. The foundation will also speak to kids about educating their own children they will have later in life,” Stapleton said.
Drew was there to give out the scholarships while Dad attended the Positive Athlete Award ceremonies the same night. These were his words to those in attendance, “I am here to present Seth’s Scholarships. When my parents asked me if I wanted to present this award, how could I say no? It’s an honor to present it like it’s an honor to receive this award. I started thinking about things that reminded me of Seth, and the crazy thing is everything reminds me of Seth. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of him or see him in some way. People always come up to our family and say “I’m sorry for bringing it up, or I don’t mean to bring it up,” but you can’t bring it up because it’s always there in our minds. My speech then went into detail about how great my brother was and why he was such a great person. Thinking about it, I could name off hundreds of things why, but then realizing this is Seth’s graduating class, they know who he was. They were either friends, played football with him, or had a class with him at some point in the 17 years at Morgan County.
From reading the papers from each applicant, they truly know how great my brother was. I want to thank the 2016 class and the school for taking Seth wherever they went or experienced this year. We truly see the power of this community when tragedy strikes. We can’t thank you enough for all you have done for our family. And with this scholarship, we hope to give back to our school and community. We are looking for students who are like Seth in some ways; caring, athletic, hardworking, and respectful. We reviewed their transcripts but our decision was not based on grades because Seth sometimes struggled in school especially in Math and Chemistry, but he always got help when he needed it and did his best to get his grades up so our mom wouldn’t be mad.
This was a very hard decision for us because all of the nominees were great and shared so many of the qualities we were looking for. In fact, one of the recipients was nominated by two coaches. The essays brought tears to our eyes.”
Comments from the four recipients were quite touching. Couch responded with these remarks, “Seth was a great guy. He was friends with everybody. He had the ability to make anyone smile at any time. I’ve known Seth for a long time and we playing football together brought us close and I know what kind of man he was. I can sit here and think about Seth and me getting his scholarship and the only word that I can think and feel is just being honored. I’m honored to have gotten the scholarship and honored to have been his friend.”
Ewing said, “First of all he was my best friend and I grew up with him since kindergarten. He was the brightest person around and he got along with everyone. He always made people laugh and he would make your bad day into a good one. The scholarship means the world to me and I’m truly honored to receive it. I will cherish this scholarship forever and never forget the moment I received it. It is another wonderful memory of Seth that I will never forget.”
Darsey talked about her friend, “Seth was real. He was a great friend and he was always smiling. He never failed to make us all laugh or smile. He meant a lot to me because he was someone I could always depend on and someone who I could always trust. Receiving the scholarship meant a lot to me because it’s like the last thing I have to hold on to of him. It’s an honor to be the first recipient of the Seth Memorial Scholarship.”
Stamps was the last to weigh in with these words, “Seth was a very loving and kind person. Anytime you saw him he always had the biggest smile on his face. He used to wave to me every day in between sixth and seventh period. He was always going to the weight room and I was going to the gym so we always passed each other. Seth has been one of my best friends since Daystar. I am so honored to have received this scholarship. The Stapleton family is some of the strongest people I know, and I love all of them dearly. Seth is missed and loved by everyone.”
Ray wanted to thank the class of 2016 with these words, “We continue to be blessed by how his classmates have taken him along with their journey throughout this year. I get goosebumps just thinking about receiving his gown and tassel at the baccalaureate service. The senior football players awarded us that. It was framed. It was beautiful.”