Laughter, music and fellowship filled the Father Ryan High School dining hall Sept. 19 for the third annual Raise Your Glass fundraiser honoring 2009 graduate Kevin Davis.
Kevin, son of Father Ryan Principal Paul Davis and Teresa Davis, and brother of Philip Davis, died in a moped accident in March 2012 during a spring break trip to Mexico. For the past three years, the Davis family has awarded the Kevin Davis Memorial Scholarship to a student embodying characteristics of Kevin who otherwise could not afford to be educated at Father Ryan.
Awarding the scholarship and hosting the fundraiser has helped the Davis family honor Kevin’s memory and give back to the Catholic community who supported them in their time of grief.
“Kevin loved to bring people together, and we’re sure he’s smiling down on this gathering,” Teresa Davis said. “This scholarship allows us to not only remember Kevin and all those who have gone before us, but most importantly it enables us to give back to the community in a way we could never do ourselves.
“When we look out at the people attending our event, we see God’s love – heaven touching earth,” she said. “When we award the scholarship, we experience more of heaven touching earth. What a blessing and gift it is for our hearts.”
The scholarship came out of a financial donation made to Father Ryan made in Kevin’s name shortly after his death.
“Paul and I were talking, and agreed we needed to do something for the students with this money,” Mrs. Davis said. “In May 2013, we awarded this scholarship for the first time.”
The Davis family eventually hopes to establish an endowment to keep the scholarship funded as long as possible.
The winner must have characteristics reminiscent of Kevin. The student must be a rising senior at Father Ryan, who has at least a 3.0 GPA, have participated in the Diocese of Nashville’s SEARCH program, been actively involved in the Father Ryan community, and done service hours above and beyond what is expected of a Father Ryan student. The recipient must also need the money to continue their education at Father Ryan.
|Erin Blair, left, Courtney Rymer, center, and Elena Ossi, 2009 graduates of Father Ryan High School and classmates of Kevin Davis, carry Chinese lanterns that were released as part of the Raise Your Glass event, which raised funds for the Kevin Davis Memorial Scholarship Fund at Father Ryan.
The first annual Raise Your Glass gathering was not the Davis family’s idea. Their friend Barbara Barrett put it together to honor Kevin.
“The Barrett family hosted it the first year at their home. They were very supportive of us and just made everything happen. They put it all together themselves,” Teresa Davis said. “So we’re really just continuing something they started.”
More than 200 people attended this year’s event, featuring beer and wine tastings from alumni-owned businesses and musical entertainment from alumni Frankie Giovetti, Sean Della Croce, and Father Ryan English teacher Randy Lancaster.
Raise Your Glass also incorporates many traditions that have helped the Davis family cope with Kevin’s passing. One such tradition is a sky lantern launch.
Olivia Chan, a friend of the Davis family whose father is from Hong Kong, introduced them to this ancient Chinese custom practiced during China’s Ghost Festival to honor the dead. As the Davis family releases the lanterns, they remember Kevin and those in the local Catholic community who died during the previous year. They also encourage attendees to pray for their own friends and family who have passed. This year, the Davises honored Sue Ann Simpson, Sarah Wilson, Cheryl Sauter Hammer and Rosemary Snyder.
As the sky lanterns were being launched, Father Ryan alumnus Julian Gomez played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Gomez, who leads the Father Ryan football team onto the field during games, played at Kevin’s burial 3½ years ago. When he ordered his traditional bagpiper’s garb from the House of Tartan in Scotland, the colors for his uniform were supposed to be blue, green, red, and white. But upon learning that Gomez wanted his to be purple to honor Kevin and the Father Ryan community, the manufacturer made it purple just for him.
Kevin is most remembered among his family and friends for his ability to live life to the fullest. “Kevin was the type of person who could take an ember and make a flame out of it,” said Tucker Davis, Kevin’s uncle and 1975 graduate of Father Ryan. “He was a friend to everyone and brought out the best in everyone around him. Even if you were already having a good day, encountering him would make things 10 times better.”
Although the Davis family misses Kevin terribly, they are glad they are able to reciprocate the love that was shown to them through the darkest moment of their lives.
“Even though we wish Kevin was still here, this scholarship has enabled us to give back to the Catholic community in ways we never thought possible. And we want the school to keep this going as long as possible,” Teresa Davis said.
Tucker Davis agreed. “Our family has been very blessed with the outpouring of love and support that has been given to us over the past 3½ years. While he was alive, Kevin showed us that there was strength in community and in faith. And after his passing, we’ve been discovering how true that is. We would not be as far along in our faith journey if it wasn’t for the faith community surrounding us through this difficult time.”
To donate to the Kevin Davis Memorial Scholarship Fund, visit www.fatherryan.org/donations and specify the donation is in memory of Kevin Davis.