When Banks Trail Middle School eighth-grader Janice Bunz’s best friend Lauryn Brook Matherly, 13, committed suicide in June, she decided to turn tragedy into a way to give back to others.
In honor of Matherly, Bunz, 13, and her father founded Tomorrow is a New Day, a teenage suicide awareness and prevention youth group in Fort Mill for children who feel depressed or lonely or who want to help others.
Bunz said she wanted to give teens something to bring meaning to their lives and helps others realize they are not alone.
“Tomorrow is a new day and you mean something to this world,” she said. “It’s why you are here. Don’t give up.”
A Tomorrow is a New Day benefit concert in September raised more than $3,000. which will be used to purchase gifts for children in need during the holidays. The concert featured rock music, a passion Bunz said she used to share with Matherly.
Bunz was honored as the grand prize winner of the first Do the Right Thing Awards of the season Thursday. Do the Right Thing honors 10 Fort Mill youth a quarter who go above and beyond when it comes to making a difference in their schools and communities.
Fort Mill Middle School seventh-grader Ansley Archuleta, 12, helps each day a fellow band member who has cerebral palsy, according to her nomination. Archuleta, who plays the trombone, helps the student, a bassoonist, assemble and disassemble his instrument so he can make it to his next class on time.
“He’s my friend,” she said. “I’m glad I can be a good person every day.”
Archuleta is also a member of the Honor Guard, the JNN news team and volleyball team.
Abi Warmington, a senior at Nation Ford High School, didn’t let an injury keep her from spreading her passion for volleyball, according to the nomination.
Warmington served as the volleyball team manager in sixth grade at Fort Mill Middle School. As a junior, her own time as a player ended with an ankle injury, but she immediately asked to be the assistant coach.
“It’s so much fun coaching them,” she said.
Warmington said she wants to inspire the middle school players to keep going. She also earned her high school diploma in three years and completed an internship this summer.
Each winner received gift cards, a 32G iPod, coupons and other gifts. Bunz also took home more gift cards and a Kindle Fire HD.
After running the program for five years, Lt. Ray Dixon passed the torch to Officer Johnathan Gilbert.
“As soon as this program got going I knew it would be something I would want to be more involved in,” Gilbert said.
He credited Dixon for growing the program, which has grown from three to 20 sponsors. He also thanked Chief Jeff Helms for his support.
“It’s pretty easy to give the thumbs up to a program recognizing a bunch of great kids,” Helms said.
Gilbert also praised the students who were nominated.
“Doing the right thing is doing something you don’t expect to be recognized for,” Gilbert told the students at the ceremony. “And you guys continue to do it.”
While Dixon said it was difficult to give up his place at the podium, he said he knows the right person has filled his spot.
“I could not have asked for a better officer to hand this off to,” Dixon said. “I know he will make this program even better than what I did.”
Amanda Harris – Amanda.email@example.com, @amanda_d_harris
Do The Right Thing award winners honored last week are:
▪ Grand Prize Winner: Janice Bunz - eighth grade, Banks Trail Middle School – Founded Tomorrow is a New Day, a youth group for children who may feel depressed or lonely or who want to help others.
▪ Ansley Archuleta – seventh grade, Fort Mill Middle School – Archuleta helps a fellow bandmate who has cerebral palsy set up his instrument and put it away so he is not late for lunch or his other classes.
▪ Abi Warmington – senior, Nation Ford High School – Warmington volunteers as the assistant coach for the middle school volleyball teams.
▪ Benjamin Fenwick – sophomore, Fort Mill High School – Fenwick helped a foreign exchange student adjust to the class routine.
▪ Hannah Sumner – senior, Nation Ford High School – Sumner was recently elected as president of the National Art Honor Society and has set up several community service projects.
▪ James Bow – sophomore, Nation Ford High School – While in the in-school suspension for being tardy to class, Bow helped calm another student who has autism and was having an episode.
▪ Terrell Stauffer - senior, Nation Ford High School – Stauffer is a Nation Ford varsity soccer player and member of the school’s unified soccer team made up of Special Olympic athletes and non-disabled pears. He is partnered with an athlete with severe autism this year and has helped him adjust to the practices and improve his soccer skills.
▪ Colton Lohmeyer – junior, Fort Mill High School – Colton earned his Eagle Scout on July 1 and has earned nearly 40 merit badges, served as the Senior Patrol Leader and was elected to the Order of the Arrow, the honor society for Boy Scouts. He also helps with many community service projects.
▪ Maya Talley – sixth grade, Fort Mill Middle School – Talley helped a student who dropped his tray at lunch. She also continuously sits with students with special needs and is engaged with many of her peers.
▪ Kevin Garcia Leon – seventh grade, Springfield Middle School – Leon, a bilingual Latino student, helps his peer, who is from Dominican Republic and speaks almost no English, keep up in class.