For the past several weeks I have been struggling with this post that I have needed to write, but just couldn’t figure out the best way go about it. So unlike most normal folks who would move along and maybe write about something else, I instead opted to do nothing but over-think things. Then I had an epiphany
I am chair of the Josh Crews Writing Project fundraiser happening next Saturday, October 25, 2014. It is in honor of my friend Josh, who died in car accident November 21, 2010. He had enormous character and spirit with a booming laugh that could swoop you up and cradle you in a bear hug. He was known for many things, living life to the fullest being one and instantly became a legend the day he left this world. I found a recount of his life eloquently written by childhood friend Ben Lacy.
Josh and I shared bits and pieces of our childhood together, especially during those middle school years, afternoons over at the Crews’ house, playing our own remixed version of Dungeons and Dragons, or weekends at the beach house, running back and forth across A1A to catch waves. Josh with his fins and bodyboard, me with my surfboard. Josh yelling up to me, “hey hana-baby, wait up!” It was the nickname he gave me, Benihana with an affectionate twist.
He was gregarious, told stories larger than life, and loved to add “baby” to the end of words he spoke. As kids, both Josh and his older brother, Matt, read through books at a staggering pace, often several books per week. My father, an avid reader, coveted that and always urged me to “do some reading like the Crews boys.” Father offered me $10 per book. I read the usual book report stuff for English class – Animal Farm, Old Man and the Sea, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye – but nothing clicked for me.
Josh on the other hand built relationships around his favorite authors. He tore through every book, sometimes reading the same book over again. This was the case with James Clavell, who Josh idolized and could not stop discussing – Shogun, King Rat, Noble House, Tai-Pan – his infectious excitement over Clavell moved me. I borrowed Shogun, the longest book I’d ever attempted. And there, I found my first love with a novel. Over the coming months I also tore through all of Clavell’s books, even Whirlwind his 1,300-page monstrosity that is sub-par to all the rest. Josh and I connected over those books and many more in the remaining years. He held respect for other readers who respected his reads.
In later years, I saw Josh here and there throughout town, at someone’s house party, out drinking with friends, over at the beach, at the grocery. I always asked what he was reading, and he’d often turn me onto my next favorite author. Josh was quite a storyteller himself, and he spoke with me at times over the years about his dreams to be a fiction writer. He became glassy eyed and serious discussing it, his desire to write quality fiction. He made attempts and hit roadblocks. We discussed them. One time, I told him that I felt it was his destiny to write a great novel, and he would never feel complete without that.
Last we talked, he discussed Florida cracker historical fiction and told me of a few books to buy in that vein. He knew so many stories, more than anyone I’ve met. I’m not sure how far he got on his novel, but somewhere in some dresser drawer or closet, there is a gem waiting to be discovered.
As a tribute to Josh and the hundreds who gathered to mourn him, it was suggested we start a scholarship in his honor. A facebook page was produced and the idea of everyone pitching in 10-20 dollars announced. In a matter of days over a thousand dollars had been collected. Josh’s father Scott approached me the evening of his son’s memorial service and said that if I were able to raise five thousand dollars he would match me an additional five thousand dollars each year…I’m not sure he realized how much I loved a challenge. During the same time frame, myself and one of Josh’s closest buds, Joe Rizzo happened to be going through Leadership Flagler. As a requirement our class needed to complete a community service project, Joe pitched our scholarship fund idea (I was gunning for community transportation:) The group agreed and the Josh Crews Fund was born, raising over 7,000 dollars at a well attended Masquerade Ball.
In keeping with Josh’s love of books it was decided that our annual fundraiser should be themed after a novel. The Josh Crews fund also transformed into the Josh Crews Writing Project, now being overseen by the Flagler Education Foundation, of which I am now also a board member. In the past years we hosted two more successful fundraisers, “A Night on Treasure Island” featuring a crew of marauding pirates and “Legends of Sleepy of Sleepy” where we honored Flagler County legends who have helped shape this place we call home. The results from these two events raised over 40 thousand dollars, allowing the writing project to publish two anthologies of writing by our local elementary school children with the rest of the funds being funneled back into the Take Stock Scholarship Program and Dell Trayer Teacher Grants.
This year the writing project is being led by BTES teacher Abbey Cooke, who has exceeded our expectations and goal objectives, already expanding the project from elementary to middle school. There is also a website in the works to broaden the depth of publishing student work. With participation in the writing clubs growing and witnessing first hand the ownership these students are taking for something they have created, makes the all the time and energy spent worth it.
In keeping with tradition, this years event is aligned with the novel “Great Gatsby”, by F.Scott Fitzgerald. To be honest it has been a struggle for me to put together, if it not were for my amazing committee and volunteers, there’s no way it would happen. But another shining light that has inspired me is what I have recently witnessed. For many years I have known that I live in a very giving town. It is still a relatively tight knit community however, I feel that we have a high rate of just really good people calling Flagler home. But this year I noticed that a large portion of the people giving back are actually classmates of Josh and I’s. My friends are now successful people who are making a point to return the favors given to them. It’s really quite beautiful and makes me even more proud to call Flagler home.
As for me, I will continue to be inspired by Josh and will always hear him in my head when I attempt to write…
“If the author feels the need to use too many words to describe an action then I just don’t have time to read the trash. If a man see’s a tree, I don’t need two pages of descriptions to explain what the tree looks like!” Josh Crews
The future of the Josh Crews Writing project…well I like to think big. Writing for me has always been a gateway to escape from problems and issues I was experiencing, but so has every other facet of art and I would love to continue providing these outlets to all our children. My dream is to have a creative center for kids that embellishes all aspects of their imagination and what I have learned through this experience is that anything is possible, especially when you work together.
In the end, I am pretty sure that Josh would never have written a tale like this one, he was seeking his great masterpiece of fiction. But I think he would be proud that his intense love for reading and writing is encouraging and empowering our youth. This Josh Crews story is pretty exceptional, I just wish he were here to tell it, because nobody could tell a story like Josh.
To purchase tickets ($100 per person- includes dinner, drinks and entertainment) or make a donation: https://flagleredfoundation.thankyou4caring.org/MasqueradeBallRegistration
Many,Many thanks to our Presenting Sponsor Intracoastal Bank and supporting Sponsors!!
Craig Flagler Palms, Flagler Dental, ERA Real Estate, FOJ, Class of 1994
Flagler Spirits, FunCoast Bartending, Curly Tail, Rentaland, Woody’s BBQ, Marketing 2 Go, Rhino Property Services, Inc.
Nature Scapes Gardens, Salvo Art , Flagler Animal Hospital, Tom Gibbs Chevrolet, Flagler Youth Orchestra, Flagler School of Dance
Many, Many Thanks to the people and businesses who have donated -Please Support Them!!
Nature Scapes Gardens, Florida Cracker Ranch, Flagler Dental, Dylan Martin Surfboards, Woody’s BBQ, Bull Creek Fish Camp, Glass Ceiling Hair Salon, Bart Johnston, Johnny Seale Pottery, High Tide Snack Jacks, Flagler Fish Company, Down By the Sea, Capristan Designs, Diane Dyer, Family Tree Acupuncture, Funky Pelican, Tracey Watson, Karen Gardner, Z-Wave Surf Shop, Diane Cline, Christina Katsolis, Celena Cline, Inspirations for Wellness, Elana Carroll Massage Therapist, High Jackers, Grand Club, A-1 Surf Shop, White Orchid, Friends Cafe, Hi-Tulip Cafe, Golden Lion, By-the Sea Cafe, Break-Aways, Hammock Wine & Cheese, Turtle Shack, Southeast Jewelry, Tony’s Pizza, Bahama Mama’s, Chateau Delights, Curves, Johnny D’s, Planet Fitness, Blooming Flowers & Gifts, Sally’s Ice Cream, and Frank Reubel Designs
Beautiful Video about the Flagler County Ed Foundation- Filmed by FPC Alumni Matt Katsolis:
Video Link to the Writing Project in person: