Tragic moment inspires community service

Published 04/16 2013 10:33PM

Updated 04/17 2013 10:36AM

CHAMPAIGN -- With the bombing at the Boston Marathon on everyone's minds, it's hard to believe six years ago, 32-people were killed in a shooting on the Virginia Tech campus. Many of us already know the story of Austin Cloyd.

The Centennial High School graduate was killed in that shooting. But from her death spawned an ever growing initiative to help others; one organizers hope those affected by Monday's tragedy can follow.

It's been a hectic week for students and staff behind the 6th Annual Austin's Day. This weekend, almost 1,500 volunteers will do community service in honor of Austin Cloyd.

"From that tragedy, we want to kind of inspire our community to step forth and serve in her name instead of making a bench, or a tree in her honor. We want to actually make a difference," said CHS senior Erica Allender.

But their excitement was invaded by chaos and sadness when an act of terror exploded in Boston.

"I actually had friends who were there, and who were running in the race and was at the finish line, half an hour previous to the explosion," she said.

"It brings it home for them immediately because they're seeing it on the news, they're reading it in the newspaper that this can happen everywhere," said organizer Todd Salen.

After a night of reflecting, organizers went right back to work. Monday's tragedy was painful to watch. But just like Virginia Tech, they hope that's not how it's remembered.

"Everybody reacts to a tragedy differently. Some people get depressed, some get sad, and it's understandable. But it's the people that take that and build from that," said Salen. "It's just kind of natural to have that state of shock. But eventually you get to the point where you're like, 'OK, I want to do something for these people that were killed.' And this day of service is a perfect example of doing something."

People can still volunteer for Austin's Day. To sign up click here!

People in Champaign-Urbana won't just be helping their own community. The Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon is now reaching out to Boston.

Organizers are planning a fundraiser event on race weekend. Proceeds will benefit a charitable fund set up for Boston's victims.

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