When Will Koster lost his father, 49, to a stroke this summer, the 17-year-old Myers Park High School Senior was lost in grief.
“People don’t know what to say to you. You don’t know what to say to anyone, either,” said Koster, who also lost his grandfather nearly a year earlier. “I hadn’t really talked anyone about my loss, and it was hard.”
An MPHS counselor referred him to KinderMourn, a Charlotte group for bereaved parents and children, to find encouragement and healthy coping skills for dealing with his grief.
“I just recently started a group session, and hearing similarities in others’ stories made me feel so much better,” he said.
Koster, who hopes to study business with a concentration in finance upon graduation, saw loss and grief at his own school during the spring and fall semesters.
Six students had lost parents to accidents or terminal illness. One student died. Another was in a coma for more than a month. And a recent MPHS grad – a close friend of Koster’s – had died in October.
“I really wanted to make a difference in all this grief, including my own. What better way to do something for me, (Distributive Education Clubs of America) and the students of Myers Park than to raise money for a worthy cause: KinderMourn,” he said.
On Dec. 15, Myers Park High will host a 5K Trail Race to raise money for KinderMourn. The race will be run on the renovated MPHS cross country trail beginning at 10 a.m. Early registration is available online or on race day starting at a 8:45 a.m.
The money will be used to fund KinderMourn camps.
Koster, president of the school’s DECA group – an international group preparing emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management – and friends have created the run in honor of their friend, David Shannon.
Shannon, an MPHS graduate and UNC Chapel Hill student, died Oct. 27 after falling 17 feet from an elevated conveyor at a Carrboro cement plant onto a concrete surface below. He was discovered by friends who used a GPS tracking device to find Shannon’s phone, according to authorities. An autopsy ruled the fall was the cause of death.
Matthew Speas, the school’s DECA advisor, said honoring Shannon is significant because when he was at MPHS he “dominated (DECA) competitions. He was an international finalist twice and the only winner at international competition that Myers Park has had since my nine years as DECA advisor,” he said.
“At the race, everyone will be running for their own loss,” Speas said. “Many students have contacted me, many former students have contacted me, asking to do something for David and other students we have lost. I can’t think of anything more appropriate.”
Shannon’s father said that when his family was approached by Koster and DECA, they agreed the race would be a great tribute.
“We first heard about two weeks ago, and we think that it is a wonderful tribute to David,” said Hugh Shannon. “DECA was a big part of David’s life, and we’re so excited and pleased that Mr. Speas and Will Koster are doing this, and honoring David. Anything to keep the memory of our son alive while also supporting such a wonderful cause is a great thing.
“We will be there to cheer on and thank David’s friends and all those who turn out for this event.”
Conroy: 704-358-5353; Twitter: @ConroyKathleen
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