|By Chris Maza
Jeremy Stambovsky, left, and the Wacks Family present a check for $100,000 to Longmeadow High School Principal Lawrence Berte, third from right, Superintendent Marie Doyle, second from right, and School Committee Chair Michael Clark, far right.
Reminder Publications photo by Chris Maza
LONGMEADOW The night before the doors of the new Longmeadow High School were opened to students for the first time, the family of a now-deceased member of the Lancer family presented a sizeable gift to the school from the foundation in his name.
The family of Ian Wacks, a class of 2000 graduate of Longmeadow High School, presented Principal Lawrence Berte and Longmeadow Public Schools Superintendent Marie Doyle at the School Committee meeting on Feb. 25 with a check for $100,000 that will be used for the completion of the school's fitness room as well as pay for the planting of a Courage Tree in Ian's honor.
Since his 2001 death, caused by congenital heart disease, Ian Wacks' family had honored his memory through a foundation that issued "The Scholarship of Quiet Courage" and with the new project nearing completion, the family decided to find out what the school needed.
"What we did is we went to the school and we told them in general what we would like to do and they told us that a situation came up in town where the funding that was originally in place was gone," Phil Wacks, Ian's father, said of the decision to fund the fitness room. "We felt it was something that was pretty important, so we decided that would be a good spot to put the money. We wanted to do something that people needed rather than something that was just a gift."
Vicki Wacks, Ian's mother, explained that the tree would be a symbol through which people could honor future Longmeadow leaders, not only in death, but in life.
"The Courage Tree is really not a memorial tree, "she said. "People can buy leaves in memory, but they can also do it in honor of another Longmeadow resident who is deserving."
Jeremy Stambovsky, a friend of the family who graduated with Ian, spoke of his spirit, courage and his commitment to his community.
"For me, when I reflect over the memories I have of Ian, he's a constant reminder to me that whatever challenges or ailments people are going through in their lives, you have to face those challenges with a smile and keep on going through," he said. "That's what Ian's memory means to me and I know that's what it means to all of his classmates who had the privilege of knowing him."
Stambovsky described Ian as the kind of person that everyone in the school knew and respected and a donation to the new building was a perfect tribute to his memory.
"In a nutshell, Ian was everybody's best friend as Longmeadow High. The kid didn't have any enemies. He always had a smile on his face," he said. "I don't think there's a better way to donate this money than to donate it to this school that Ian loved so much, that he gave so much to and where he had so many friends and created so many memories.
"I hope with this check his memory will live on in Longmeadow High and future generations will ask about Ian and the teachers who are still there can explain about him and what his spirit meant to this school," he continued.
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