Parents create foundation that rewards kids for good deeds
by Laura Emerson, View Staff Writer
Drew Stevens counts the days — 508, 509, 510 — and they never stop coming.
“It’s unimaginable,” he said with a look of anguish. Today, Feb. 9, it has been a little more than one year and five months since Stevens’ 12-year-old son Josh died in a golf cart accident at Anthem Country Club.
“My son was 30 days away from his birthday,” Stevens said.
Josh, who had been home-schooled by his mom, Barbara, for the past few years, had returned to the public school system two weeks earlier and was attending Miller Middle School, 2400 Cozy Hill Circle, for seventh grade. The Stevens family had moved to Anthem just three weeks before.
“Literally, I was the happiest guy in the world,” Drew Stevens said. “Now I don’t know anybody who would trade places with me.”
On the morning of Sept. 5, 2008, Drew Stevens stood inside his garage with Josh. The younger Stevens hated to leave his mom when she dropped him off at Miller. On school mornings, Josh got tears in his eyes and experienced anxiety.
“He was really quick to get homesick,” Drew Stevens said.
Drew Stevens wanted to give Josh something to look forward to when he came home from school to make leaving a little easier.
Since moving to Anthem, the pair had driven a friend’s golf cart around a few times for fun. In response to his dad’s offer, Josh asked if they could get their own golf cart so father and son could share the experience whenever they wanted.
When Josh came home from school that day, there was a golf cart waiting for him. After dinner, father and son hopped in for a ride around the block. The two stopped at a lookout, where they could see the city unfolding in front of them.
“I just remember sitting there with my arm around him,” Drew Stevens said. “I distinctly remember telling him, ‘I don’t know what I’d do without you.’ ”
The father-son duo continued their ride back home, then decided to go around one more time. Around a bend, a boat was parked on a narrow street.
“I saw it at the last second,” Drew Stevens said. “I never hit the boat.”
Drew Stevens swerved left to avoid the craft, and Josh fell out of the cart to the right. Stevens’ boy suffered head and neck injuries that resulted from the blunt force of the accident, which resulted in his death.
“He was gone,” Drew Stevens said.
In memory of their son, Drew and Barbara Stevens started the Josh Stevens Foundation last spring. The foundation aims to reward adults and children alike who encompass Josh’s kind spirit. People who are “caught” being especially kind or doing a good deed receive a little thank you card tied with a colored shoelace. Inside is a gift card.
“It’s like a present, almost,” Jennifer Petrick, Miller Middle School counselor, said. “They can wear something every day that reminds them, ‘Hey, I did the right thing.’ ”
The foundation rewards kindness because, according to those who knew him best, Josh was an exceptionally kind young man.
Sixth-grader Jessica Baity knew Josh for about 10 years. Their families lived across the street from each other. Jessica recently described her friend as “funny, nice and outgoing.”
“We used to play football and soccer out in front of our house,” Jessica said.
When Josh died, Jessica was away at camp with her sister. On the way home, she sensed something was wrong.
“My parents, I knew they were acting really weird,” Jessica said.
Her dad stopped and told the girls what had happened, and Jessica began to cry.
Just a year and a half later, Jessica said she still misses her friend but likes the idea of the foundation named after Josh.
“He always included people, some people that he didn’t even know,” Jessica said. “I thought it was pretty cool that he thought of that.”
Josh and his family, including his older sister Shelbie and younger brother Samuel, dined frequently at Crazy Pita. While there, Josh often would clear people’s tables when they were finished eating. He didn’t know the owner and wasn’t looking for praise. That’s just who he was, his father said.
Josh was the type of person who held doors open for others, cared about those he didn’t know and went out of his way to make the world a better place, Drew Stevens said.
“I think it honors Josh that it is continuing,” Drew Stevens said.
As of now, Miller, Del Webb and Schofield middle schools, as well as Twitchell Elementary School, are participating in the Be Kind movement this academic year.
In addition to the free gifts, schools sell Josh Stevens Foundation T-shirts, which read “Be Kind” on the front, then have any number of sayings on the back, including “More Often” and “Pass it On.” T-shirts cost $10 each, and $2 of each sale goes back to the school from which it was purchased. The remaining $8 goes back to the foundation to fund the printing of the T-shirts and gift card holders.
Petrick said at Miller Middle School, she has run out shirts to sell because her students have bought out her inventory.
“They’re really into it,” Petrick said.
Not only the children, but also nearly all the staff at Miller wears the Be Kind shirts.
“This little boy is just too special to be gone and the difference that he was making in this world to be stopped,” Drew Stevens said. “What he was, he was just genuinely kind.”
Earlier this year, Drew Stevens spoke to Miller Middle School teachers about his son and the foundation. After hearing the family’s story, girls basketball coach Rich Santigate wanted to do something to help. As such, he renamed the school’s annual basketball tournament the Josh Stevens Be Kind Basketball Invitational Tournament.
“I cannot begin to thank all the people who supported and continue to support our family,” Drew Stevens said.
At the tournament, T-shirts from the foundation were sold to raise awareness of the Stevens’ message.
“To me, it’s a small thing that I could do,” Santigate said.
The tournament will be named after Josh indefinitely.
“As long as I’m running it,” Santigate said.
Before school started for the 2008-09 academic year, Josh told Miller’s principal that he was going to be the new spelling bee champion on campus.
“I met this kid the spring before he started here, and he literally glowed,” Petrick said.
With the foundation, Drew Stevens and his family hope to inspire others to be kind and caring to one another.
“This doesn’t matter if you get straight A’s. This is just being a good person,” Petrick said.
About 300 children will receive a Be Kind gift card this year. In addition, two students picked at random will each receive a $200 U.S. Savings Bond.
“It really changes the environment because you really have to live up to the shirt that they’re wearing,” Petrick said.
Petrick said she’s noticed that wearing the shirts changes people’s conversation, and students who wear the red shoelace change their actions for the better when they look down at their reminders to be kind.
Eighth-grader Grace Green knew Josh for about one year before he died.
“He was like, he was so kind and wanted the best for everyone,” Grace said.
During his two-week career at Miller, Grace saw Josh between classes in their passing periods. They talked to each other about what was going on in their science class and also about their love of sports. Grace was a basketball player, and Josh was a football and baseball player.
“He would talk about baseball a lot — his team and how good they were doing,” Grace said.
Grace was at a local shopping center with a friend when she heard about Josh’s passing.
“I couldn’t believe it. It seemed like a dream or something,” Grace said. “I knew he was the right person to go because God needed him early.”
The Josh Stevens Foundation uses gift cards donated by business owners and the general public to reward those who have been genuinely kind and helped others.
“The true gift that is received is in the heart of the person giving something,” Drew Stevens said. “It really feels good to hand them to somebody.”
In the past, businesses such as Golden Spoon and Crazy Pita have donated gift cards.
“They’re definitely in need of more donations,” Petrick said.
Above all, though, the Josh Stevens Foundation honors a little boy who was taken from this life much too soon.
“My little buddy, my best friend … Here now, I have to live this life without him,” Drew Stevens said. “I am so broken beyond measure … This accident has put a lot of things in perspective for me.”
For more information on the Josh Stevens Foundation, visit www.joshstevensfoundation.org or call 269-5463.
Contact View education reporter Laura Emerson at email@example.com or 380-4588.In Josh’s memory