Caring is the word used by many people to describe Addyson Engle.
“She was just my go-to child,” said Jenny Kent, Addyson’s kindergarten teacher at Graham Creek Elementary School. “She knew what was going on. She was sweet, caring, loved everybody in class, wanted to help.”
Sophi Foster said Addyson was “such a sweet soul.” Her son, Alex, was Addyson’s friend and classmate.
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“She helped anybody and everybody and just was a caring soul,” she said.
Trista Engle, Addyson’s mother, agreed.
“She was a helper, and she would do anything for anybody. She was so happy all the time,” she said with tears welling in her eyes.
On June 11, Addyson, 6, her cousin, Keghan McCrory-Engle, 10, and her aunt, Kathy Scroggins, 55, were returning from visiting Trista Engle at an Indianapolis hospital, where she had been admitted with complications with her second pregnancy.
Traffic was stopped on Interstate 65 near Columbus because of a fatal motorcycle wreck, and the SUV that Scroggins was driving struck the back of a semitrailer. Keghan and Addyson died at the scene, and Scroggins died nine days later at an Indianapolis hospital.
Two days after the wreck, Trista Engle gave birth to a daughter, Alexis Grace, who was born at 31½ weeks and weighed 2 pounds and 10 ounces.
About a week after the wreck, Kent and Foster decided they wanted to do something to keep Addyson’s memory alive at the school.
They learned about a program Green Tree Plastics in Evansville offers called A Bench for Caps, where plastic caps and lids are recycled and turned into a bench. It takes 500 pounds of caps and lids to make one 8-foot bench.
Kent and Foster created a flier and shared it on Facebook, and they set a goal of collecting 500 pounds by November.
The response was so overwhelming that the collection stopped two months earlier than expected. By collecting 3,277 pounds in 77 days, they were able to bring home four benches, including one to be placed at Graham Creek Elementary.
A dedication ceremony was supposed to be Jan. 11, which would have been Addyson’s 7th birthday, but school was canceled because of the weather. So the ceremony was pushed back to Friday, and the purple bench was unveiled.
Engle went to Evansville with Kent and Foster to pick up the benches, but Friday was the first time she saw one of them engraved with “Addyson’s Bench of Caring” and “In loving memory of Addyson ‘Addy’ Engle.”
“Everything is so overwhelming,” said Engle, a Jennings County native who attended Graham Creek Elementary and later moved to Crothersville and graduated from high school there in 2009.
“It just warms my heart, really, just knowing that my 6-year-old was such a big part of this school even though she was only a kindergartner,” she said. “I thought she was amazing because she’s my daughter, but to know that everybody else — the teachers, the principal — knew that she was caring and helpful, that just really warms my heart.”
When people see the bench at the school, Engle said she wants them to remember how outgoing and happy Addyson was and know that you can make a difference no matter your age.
“I’m just trying to turn this into something positive,” she said. “If you can just keep her memory alive, that’s what I want. I want people to remember what Addy was.”
Once word got out about the cap and lid collection, individuals, businesses, schools and industries from the area and from other states got on board. Collections also took place during the school’s open house and the county fair.
The eighth-grade class at St. Mary’s Catholic School in North Vernon conducted Capture the Caps as a service project. That school-wide contest brought in more than 20,000 caps in one month.
Kent and Foster also received monetary donations to help pay for the processing of the benches, which costs $300.
“This program became absolutely an outreach program,” said Peggy Fear, Graham Creek’s principal. “We heard from people we didn’t even know. We heard from people across state lines. We heard from people everywhere wanting to participate in this program.”
The bags of caps and lids were stored at Fostech Mfg., Foster’s family business. One Saturday, more than 20 volunteers spent about 10 hours sorting the collection. Erler Industries Inc. in North Vernon helped arrange a flatbed trailer to deliver the 12 pallets of caps and lids to Evansville at no cost.
Two of the other benches will be placed at First Marion Baptist Church, with a purple one in memory of Addyson and a red one in memory of Keghan. On the day of the wreck, the cousins were headed to vacation Bible school at the church after visiting Trista Engle in the hospital. Foster said a dedication ceremony for the benches is planned for the spring.
The fourth bench will be placed in Bob and Irene Engle’s memorial garden in the front yard of their home. Scroggins was their daughter, and Addyson and Keghan were their great-grandchildren.
Irene Engle also made an afghan in honor of Addyson. Graham Creek’s student council sold raffle tickets to raise money for the Addyson Engle Memorial Fund, and the winner of the afghan was announced during the bench dedication ceremony.
Kent and Foster had several pounds of caps and lids left over. Those are banked at Green Tree Plastics, so they could either use them to create more benches or donate them to another group working on a bench project.
Addyson’s Bench of Caring will be placed along a sidewalk outside the school facing the playground, where she loved to play on the monkey bars, Kent said.
Foster said she wants people to remember Addyson in a positive spirit.
“That was the whole purpose of this,” she said. “We wanted something positive for the kids here at Graham Creek and us as adults to come out of this because it was such a tragic event.”
Kent said the bench will remind people of the sweet, caring child Addyson was.
“At the beginning of the school year, she wanted to be a nurse, and we have a little picture she drew of a nurse,” she said. “At the end of the year, she wanted to be a teacher because she loved everybody, she loved kids. It’s only fitting that here at the school, we remember her that way.”
To donate to the Addyson Engle Memorial Fund, visit local branches of MainSource Bank or call Sophi Foster at 812-498-0787.
For information about Green Tree Plastics and its A Bench for Caps program, visit greentreeplastics.com.