By JOHN GORALSKI
John Fusco pulled back the sheet to reveal the bench, and he laid the Olivia Fusco Friendship Award upon it as the bench’s first occupant.
On Friday, Jan. 22, dozens gathered near the main entrance of John F. Kennedy Middle School to witness the unveiling of a memorial bench that was donated to the school to honor one of two teenagers that were killed in a car accident on I-84 on July 28, 2015.
Friends, family, and classmates gathered, along with school and town officials, to pay tribute to the former JFK student. The bench is adorned with an etched portrait Olivia Fusco, a former eighth grader at the school, who died in the 2015 crash.
“We’re pleased to have this beautiful bench at Kennedy to honor her memory,” said JFK Assistant Principal Susan Vitcavage.
Vitcavage said that the bench was created by Olivia’s father, John, with funds received through donations at his work. Fusco approached Vitcavage about making the donation and establishing an annual award to honor his daughter.
“At the end of the summer, I was approached by her father about making this donation to Kennedy in memory of his daughter,” said Vitcavage. “We were glad to have it.”
The school has received a number of memorial items in the past, but this one was special since it honored a student that is still being grieved by the school community.
In addition to the bench, Fusco used the ceremony as an opportunity to announce the Olivia Fusco Friendship Award.
“I think it’s a lasting tribute to Olivia, and it was important to me that her spirit of friendship was her lasting legacy,” said her father. “In an effort to inspire future generations of JFK students, I’m very proud and excited to announce the Olivia Fusco Friendship Award today.”
Fusco said that the award will be presented each year to an eighth grade student at the school that “best represents friendship through compassion, kindness, loyalty, and support.”
The bench will remain, for now, at the school’s entrance to greet visitors in the main lobby. Made of durable materials, the bench could eventually be moved to a suitable place on the school grounds.