Once a Scout, always a Scout.
That’s how one Eagle Scout described the outpouring of support after 12-year-old Andrew McMorris, a seventh-grader at Albert Prodell Middle School in Shoreham, died Sunday after being struck by an alleged drunken driver while out on a hike with fellow Scouts from Troop 161.
As the initial shock subsided, Eagle Scouts and Riverhead High School alumni Chris Courtenay, Everett Gilliam II and Jeff Schultz were talking about their time as scouts and how they could help their hometown.
Working together from Atlanta, Pennsylvania and New York, the men launched a GoFundMe page Tuesday, writing: “As Eagle Scouts, we have pledged countless times to help others, and we find ourselves duty-bound to ask for your help for these Scouts now.”
In two days, the page generated over $10,000 that Mr. Courtenay said would be distributed to assist the troop with counseling and troop activities.
“We were thinking about the impact of something like this on not just the scouts, but the leadership, from an adult perspective,” Mr. Courtenay said in a phone interview Thursday. “And how we can help address those needs and maintain the strength and bond of everybody in the troop together in remembering the great kid Andrew was.”
The McMorris family asked mourners to refrain from placing items at the scene of the crash and instead show their support by “treating others with kindness and placing red ribbons, the color for Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Boy Scouts of America, on their properties.”
In the days following the tragic crash, a sea of red ribbons have been hung on front doors, mailboxes and storefronts in the Shoreham-Wading River area to show support for the McMorris family and members of his Boy Scout Troop 161.
A Coldwell Banker Real Estate office at the Shoppes at East Wind has been transformed into a ribbon-making hub.
“It’s tough for the community because we’ve lost too many kids in the last few years,” said Coldwell Banker manager Pam Garee of Wading River. “We wanted to paint the town red so that when people are driving around they see the love and support from the community.”
Since Monday, more than 50 volunteers have made 700 ribbons that can be picked up for a donation of $10, Ms. Garee said. The funds raised will benefit MADD, Boy Scout Troop 161 and the Wildcats Helping the Arts & Music program.
Red ribbons were placed at the entrances to all major Suffolk County parks in honor of Andrew, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced Thursday.
They even appeared near homes in North Carolina damaged by Hurricane Florence.
On Wednesday, donations of water and first aid items that had been gathered by the Middle Island Fire Department — with the assistance of Troop 161 — arrived in the small community of Hampstead, N.C., located about 20 miles north of Wilmington.
“Our neighborhood was hard hit,” said Janine DeVito, a former Terryville resident. She was shocked to learn about what happened to Troop 161, but was inspired when told that Andrew and his parents helped gather donation items for her community.
“Just when you think you’re devastated, you realize that somebody else just lost a whole lot more than you did,” Ms. DeVito said Friday. “It puts some perspective into our suffering.”
She said the neighborhood is grateful to Andrew and his parents.
“He touched an entire community of people 800 miles away. We are blessed to have been the recipients of a final act of generosity.”
Now, dozens of homes, some in shambles from the storm, are adorned with red ribbons.
“Amongst the devastation, in some strange way it gives us hope,” Ms. DeVito said.
News of the 12-year-old’s death also rocked the online aviation ‘plane-spotting’ community.
Andrew, who earned an aviation merit badge, had over 5,000 followers on his Instagram page dedicated to aircraft ‘spotting,’ a hobby of tracking airplane movements with photography.
Online, word spread throughout the aviation community and a Change.org campaign petitioning American Airlines to name a Boeing 787 Dreamliner after Andrew was signed by over 10,000 people in the first 24 hours.
Justin Franco, a spokesperson for American Airlines, said the airline has been in touch with the family in the wake of the tragedy.
“The aviation community, it’s a close-knit one,” he said during a phone call Thursday. “We look out for each other.”
Mr. Franco said that two New York-based pilots attended the wake Thursday to support the family. “We’re happy to do what we can at a difficult time,” he said.
In an Instagram post liked over 18,000 times, American Airlines mourned the loss of the Boy Scout. “To a young man who dreamed of flying our Dreamliner one day: We wish you blue skies and tailwinds. You’ll always be part of our #fAAmily,” the caption read.
In a statement released Tuesday, Andrew’s parents Alisa and John expressed their appreciation for the overwhelming show of support. “Give all your children and loved ones an extra-long hug today and don’t wait for the right time to express love to one another,” they said.
Top photo caption: Red ribbons on a tree in Hampstead, N.C. near the home of Patti Mazzara that was devastated by Hurricane Florence last month. Ms. Mazzara is the sister of Janine DeVito, a former Terryville resident. (Credit: Courtesy of Janine DeVito)