CMS adds memorial seating to bring mental health awareness

Members of the Crawfordsville Middle School A-Team share information about the memorial bench project during a ceremony in September.
Members of the Crawfordsville Middle School A-Team share information about the memorial bench project during a ceremony in September.
Andria Grady/Journal Review Photos

Members of the Crawfordsville Middle School A-Team added another great project to its long list of accomplishments.

The A-Team collected enough plastic caps to create two memorial benches. The bottle caps were sent to Green Tree Plastics in Evansville and upcycled into seating on the school grounds.

The recent addition to the benches is just one of more than 175 projects the organization has completed for the school and community.

Student Taylor Bray initiated the bench proposal in August 2022. Bray’s family was close friends and colleagues of Zachary Thomas Carter, a dispatcher at STAR Ambulance Service in Crawfordsville. Suffering from depression, Carter took his own life June 22, 2022, at the age of 21. His family started the Zachary Thomas Carter Foundation to honor his memory.

“The A-Team does what is on the kid’s hearts,” said teacher and A-Team sponsor Shannon Hudson. “They come up with the projects and figure out how to get it done.” Laurie Vellner, who also is a teacher and A-Team sponsor, added that Bray brought the project to the group and everyone was eager to get behind it.

Student Isabel Gerdes thought the project was important because too many people attach a stigma to mental health issues. She said no one should feel ashamed to talk about their problems. 

Student Shaeleigh Hreskowsky was proud to help the family and the foundation provide the benches. She hoped it brought them a sense of peace.

A dedication ceremony was held at the end of September in the school’s auxiliary gym. The ceremony was attended by students, teachers, community leaders, members of Carter’s family and the ZTC Foundation board. The crowd heard stories about Zach and how the A-Team worked together to pick colors and quotes for each bench.

The first bench carries the quote, “Education is the most thing you can use to change the world” by Abigail Adams. The second bench quote reads, “Don’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the further you get” by Michael Phelps. Foundation members were surprised by the Phelps inscription, as Blake Thomas, Zach’s brother and foundation leader, disclosed that Phelps was Zach’s favorite athlete. 

To further honor Zach, students and speakers wore the shoes commonly referred to as “Crocs.” Zach loved these shoes and wore them everywhere he went. Almost all the students were visibly wearing such shoes in bright colors, as well as many adults.

The Zachary Thomas Carter Foundation, “strives to be the light before the darkness comes.” Its goal is to bring awareness to the mental health crisis in the community and provide resources to struggling individuals.

One of the ways the foundation is reaching into the community is by providing benches in places of need. The benches give individuals a place to sit and talk about their feelings with a friend and also remind them that they are not alone in their struggles. 

Another unique project the foundation works to promote is the “You Matter Butterfly.” Butterflies are a symbol of Zach’s legacy left behind. Zach’s mother, Lisa and family friends crochet large magnetized butterflies to give away. It was developed as a way to help the family cope with their grief. To date,more than 3,000 butterflies have been distributed in 39 states and nine countries. Each butterfly contains a message, reminding the recipient that “you matter” and are important to the world. 

To learn more about the work of the Zachary Thomas Carter Foundation, visit their website or Facebook page. Emails may be sent to The “You Matter Butterfly” project can be reached at and also on Facebook.