When Lisa Fox heard the tragic news of Kaitlyn Doorhy’s death in late August, she and the executive board of the Mattituck-Cutchogue Parent-Teacher Association began brainstorming ways to honor the Mattituck woman.
“Not only to honor Kaitlyn, but to honor her family, which has given so much to this community for the last 15 years,” said Ms. Fox, the PTA president.
They decided on the “Kaitlyn Doorhy Memorial Buddy Bench,” which was introduced in a ceremony Friday afternoon at the Cutchogue East Elementary School.
Ms. Doorhy — a 2012 Mattituck High School graduate, honor student, varsity soccer player, accomplished musician, cheerleader, volunteer and 2011 Mattituck Strawberry Queen — died at the age of 20 on Aug. 22 when she was struck by car near her sorority house at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn.
“We can never take away your sadness, but we all embrace you and your family and hope to ease your pain,” Ms. Fox said.
Kaitlyn’s parents, Joe and Darla Doorhy, attended Friday’s ceremony along with their daughter Carly.
“We’re just overwhelmed with the outpouring from the community,” Joe Doorhy said after the ceremony. “It’s a bittersweet day. I can’t thank the people of this community enough for everything they’ve done.”
Ms. Fox said when the PTA was searching for a way to honor Kaitlyn and her family, she discovered the Buddy Bench. A boy in third grade came up with the idea as a way to encourage friendship on the playground, Ms. Fox said.
The boy, identified only as Christian, originally thought his family would be moving to Germany. He saw a bench on a playground there and thought it would be a good idea to encourage friendship at his own school. He ended up not moving to Germany and he convinced his school to get a bench.
“The idea is that, if you don’t have someone to play with or you want someone to talk to, you just sit on the Buddy Bench and a friend will come and talk to you,” said Cutchogue East Principal Kathleen Devine.
“The Buddy Bench is an incredible idea and is exactly what Kaitlyn stood for,” said Molly Waitz, Ms. Doorhy’s friend and fellow 2012 Mattituck High School graduate. She said that in addition to Kaitlyn’s many accomplishments in school, sports and other ventures, she also volunteered at places like Maureen’s Haven, which helps the homeless, and at blood drives.
“She gave more than she received and cared more about others around her than herself,” Ms. Waitz said Friday.
Ms. Fox said the Doorhy family has also given back to the community. Darla is a past president of the PTA and a president of the Friends of Music and Joe is a past president of the athletic booster club, Ms. Fox said.
“The school district owes you a great deal of gratitude,” Ms. Fox told the family. “We hope that this bench will offer you a peaceful place to come and reflect on your happy memories of Kaitlyn and Carly attending school here.”
Friday’s ceremony also featured a flag presentation by the local Cub Scout pack, a presentation by the local Girl Scouts, and a Celtic melody played by Deborhah Guryn on flute and Robert Ozman on piano.