Just weeks before his 2007 high school graduation, Island Trees student Joseph Masi was tragically taken in a bicycle accident.
On Friday night, the third annual Joe Masi Memorial Fundraiser took place at Island Trees High School. The district began the fundraising volleyball tournament in 2009 to benefit the Joseph Masi Memorial Scholarship Fund and keep the memory of Masi alive throughout the community. A scholarship is given out annually to two Island Trees graduates that embody Masi's kind personality and will to learn.
"He was always sunshine and light," said high school guidance counselor Deborah Sullivan. "There's not a single person who could say a bad thing about Joe, and things weren't easy for him. Sometimes people can be jerks when things aren't easy, but not Joe."
Each year, teachers from the high school face off against teachers from the middle school in a competitive game that attracts hundreds of supporters. For the first time since the tournament's inception, the middle school took home the trophy in Masi's honor.
"The special education department came together collectively to do something for Joe," said Marie Timmons, a special education teacher at the high school. "His parents came to us and we wanted to do it. Everybody loved him."
Dana Lehnert, a physical education teacher at Island Trees Middle School, remembered her former student fondly.
"He was a great motivator," she explained. "Every single day he had a smile on his face, no matter what was happening. I've been on maternity leave the past two years, but I really wanted to come tonight. It's such a great cause and I'll always remember him."