Keeping score during East Hampton High School games has never been more difficult. The scoreboard, positioned at the western end of the playing field, occasionally keeps the time. Its entire bottom row of bulbs is blown out and it is too old to be fixed, according to Joseph Vasile-Cozzo, the district’s athletic director. Directly below the large metal sign, a wooden board hangs in memory of Brandon Hayes, an East Hampton High School alumnus who was killed in a car accident in 1997.
Hitting quite a home run with district officials, the East Hampton Rotary Club announced this month that it would replace the dysfunctional board with a new, state-of-the-art display. The new board will also carry on Brandon’s legacy—his name integrated into the design of the board this time, according to school officials.
Brandon’s family members, who are longtime East Hampton residents, are thrilled that his life is still being honored to this day. On Monday, his parents, Glenda and John Hayes Sr., and his brother, John Jr., gathered in front of the old scoreboard with East Hampton School administrators and members of the Rotary Club.
“I’m very proud,” Ms. Hayes said. “I miss him so much and the fact that people still think about him feels really good.”
The new scoreboard will not only memorialize Brandon in a more visual way but will allow his family to focus on raising funds to start a Brandon Hayes Scholarship Fund for strong student athletes. According to his second cousin, Tamara Hayes, her family has been working with the school district to figure out how they could get a new scoreboard in addition to planning for the fund. Mr. Vasile-Cozzo said he has also been trying to have it budgeted for over the last three years, but with the 2 percent tax levy cap, it hasn’t been possible. The new scoreboard will cost approximately $17,000.
Fortunately, members of the Rotary Club had been looking for a project to donate to this year with money from its President’s Fund. Each year since the group’s inception in 1967, 10 percent of the net proceeds of any fundraising the organization does goes into the President’s Fund for large community projects. The Rotary Club paid for a fitness trail at the school about 30 years ago and provided the seed money— $25,000—for The Retreat domestic violence shelter in the late 1980s.
Rotary Club member and district truant officer Ken Brown, knowing the district’s need for a new scoreboard and the Rotary Club’s need for a project, suggested the donation. According to Rotary Club President Bruce Siska, it was just what the group had been looking for.
“It was the perfect fit,” he said. “We told the School Board that even if the cost of the scoreboard runs over, we will match whatever it will cost.”
The Hayes family, School Board members and administrators plan to meet in the coming weeks to come up with a design plan that will incorporate Brandon’s name into the sign, as well as the Rotary Club’s logo.
“We don’t want it to look like it’s an add-on,” District Superintendent Richard Burns said on Monday about the memorial. “It will be prominently featured there for Brandon.”
Having just graduated from high school in 1997, the 18-year-old had been a leader in the community when he was killed, according to his cousin Tamara.
“It was tough for everybody to lose such a pillar,” she said. “Everybody knew Brandon. He broke records in football, basketball and track. He was an unbelievable athlete. He was always with a smile and you never, ever saw him down, no matter what was going on.”
According to Mr. Burns, who was a teacher in the district at the time, Brandon’s peers looked up to him and when he died, there was an outpouring of support for his family.
Mr. Vasile-Cozzo said the Rotary Club’s donation was a “wonderful gesture” that athletes of all sports—mainly football, soccer, field hockey and lacrosse—will use.
The group who gathered in front of the old scoreboard on Monday threw around ideas about how to celebrate the donation. The goal is to get the new display up as soon as possible and eventually have a ribbon cutting ceremony, but design plans and delivery will take time.
“The scoreboard was a big issue for [Ms. Hayes],” Tamara Hayes said. “She told me that we should really do something about it, so I’m really grateful that the Rotary Club picked this up. My goal to set up the scholarship fund, and what my aunt really wanted—the new scoreboard—is taken care of.”