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Akron School Pays Tribute To Student

By REGINALD FIELDS
Beacon Journal staff writer

Hatton Elementary unveils granite marker, spruce tree in memory of boy who died

Akron’s Hatton Elementary School meant a lot to 10-year-old Sammy Cullen. Yesterday the school – teachers, students and parents – let the boy’s family know he meant more to them.

“Sammy loved Hatton. It’s his school and it always will be his school,” said Hatton special education teacher Kathy Berlin, who taught Sammy for four years.
Sammy died unexpectedly in June, a day after having a 10th surgery during his young life to correct his club feet. To this day, his family doesn’t know what caused his death, which happened a week after school had let out for summer vacation.
But the students returned to school in late August with Sammy in mind. Through a penny drive, they raised $470. Yesterday, Sammy’s classmates planted a 7-foot spruce tree and unveiled a monument outside the school remembering their friend.
Sammy’s mom, dad, sister and other family and friends stood nearby at the somber, funeral-like ceremony. They gathered in a semicircle around the tree. The tree, the monument, the gathering all meant a lot to Sammy’s family, especially his mom, Karen Cullen.
“This means Sammy will live on forever,’ she said.
Hatton Principal Paul Green remembered Sammy as a well-liked child. “He was an all-around good kid,” Green said. “Everyone liked him. The fifth-graders on down would help him get around because he couldn’t run or things like that. But that kind of help is unusual.”
The money raised was supposed to be used to purchase the tree and granite marker, those items ended up being donated, according to school volunteer Charlotte Friend.
The school has another idea about how to use the money. Friend said the Hatton Parent-Teacher Association will buy books on diversity and dedicate a corner in the school library to Sammy.
“Because Sammy was a special education student, we thought it would be good to teach kids that it’s OK if people are different because of a handicap or race or whatever,” Friend said.
Sammy would like that, his family believes. Sammy liked a lot of things and a lot of people. He was remembered yesterday as someone who would get off the bus each morning, hug people and say, “I like you.”
Sammy’s legacy for me is to look beyond the setbacks and struggles,” said Berlin , his teacher. “To say ‘I like you’ and ask to be liked in return was Sammy’s trademark.”

And judging from the school’s outpouring, many people did like Sammy.


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