(WHAS11) – Twelve years ago this week tragedy struck Columbine High School, but out of the tragedy came an incredible program called Rachel's Challenge.
Rachel Scott was the first of 12 students and one teacher killed at Columbine. In Rachel’s name, her family has built a now-global organization that fosters kindness and compassion.
Brightly colored strips of paper, shades of red and yellow, pile up on a table at North Hardin High School. Each paper a link in a chain of caring has a message. Get well, thinking of you, hope you're better soon.
The messages sent to a special person, who the whole school is rooting for.
“That's a lot of links there. See there's got to be more…as these lunches keep piling in and it's going to be a long chain that we keep piling on to and all this is going to go to Sergeant Major[Paul Gray],” Aaron Vance, North Hardin Sophomore, said.
Gray founded the ROTC program at North Hardin School 17 years ago. He's highly regarded for the growth of the program and greatly admired by students.
“Kids care a lot for him and would do anything for him,” Major Steve Fisher of ROTC said. “We used to kid about that but I think if Paul told one to jump off the roof of the building they might jump, so he has to be careful what he says.”
Last December Paul Gray was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was a sudden shock to everyone at North Hardin.
“I'm going to tell you, it's just shattering,” Fisher said.
When he received the first batch of links the Gray and his family were deeply touched.
Shortly after the diagnosis, North Hardin heard Rachel's story. She dreamed of starting a chain reaction of caring. Her life was cut short at Columbine. But her story and her mission lives on through the organization her family founded.
I can see the change in our school from it,” Robin Schlobach, North Hardin Junior, said. “As soon as it happened, as soon as they told us, it hit everyone.”
And in Gray the students have seen shades of Rachel.
“He's someone who shares a passion for the ROTC program that Rachel shared with helping other people,” Tanisha Jackson, North Hardin Junior, said.
Now students past and present have sent their well wishes to Gray.
“My boyfriend used to be one of his cadets,” Mikey Crutcher, North Hardin Junior, said. “I put that he's thinking about him because there's so many people that are still thinking about him, even though they're not in school.”
In one lunch, students have signed about 25 feet of good wish links. The school’s goal is by the middle of May to sign enough so they can circle the entire football field. All of it is in honor of Gray.
“And I think that gives him hope,” Fisher said. “I think it gives him something to look forward to.”
Now North Hardin High School students, through these links, are part of a chain reaction.
Three high schools and five middle schools in Hardin County have accepted Rachel's Challenge.
WHAS11 wants to hear from you. Has your school or business accepted the challenge? Email us at rachelschallenge@WHAS11.com. You can also visit the Rachel’s Challenge page on our website. Click here.