Creek grad's heroism inspires scholarships
There's no doubt in Deborah Hutchinson's mind that her late son, Army Spc. Ray Joseph Hutchinson, would have loved the idea of the scholarship foundation that was created in his honor.
He would say something like, This is awesome,'" she said.
A Clear Creek High School grad who was moved to serve by the attacks of 9/11, he was 20 when he was killed in action on Dec. 7, 2003, while serving with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne in northern Iraq.
Since the Ray Joseph Hutchinson Foundation was established about a year later, it has given Clear Creek Independent School District students more than $90,000 in scholarships, said Michael Hutchinson, the foundation's president and Hutchinson's father.
The foundation supports young people, who like Hutchinson, devote their lives to making the world a better place.
Ray Joseph was an amazing young man who made a difference in so many lives," Michael said. What we're really looking for are kids who are reaching out to give others a hand."
Last month, the foundation awarded scholarships to 2010 Clear Creek High School graduate Shannon Matis and Clear Brook High School graduates Brian Bloomfield and John Connell.
This Thursday, the foundation will hold its annual Salute to Heroes, the only fund-raiser for its scholarships.
The event will be held 6-9 p.m. June 24 at the South Shore Harbor Resort and Conference Center's Crystal Ballroom.
The event is sold out, Michael said, but community members can still support the foundation's efforts with online donations at www.rjhfoundation.org/donate.html. Gifts are tax deductible.
Because the fund-raiser theme is Salute to Heroes, the foundation will surprise a representative from the community with a recognition ceremony. Last year, the foundation honored a World War II veteran.
The evening also will feature a POW/MIA ceremony and a brief presentation on Hutchinson's life.
He completed boot camp and infantry training at Fort Benning, Ga., where he became a Distinguished Honor Graduate.
After graduating first in his class at jump school, he joined the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) of Fort Campbell, Ky. He and the other members of the 2nd Battalion were deployed to Iraq in March 2003.
Hutchinson's skill, drive and positive attitude caught the attention of two generals during his service, Deborah Hutchinson said. At one point, he was invited to be a general's driver, which would put him in a much safer environment.
Hutchinson politely refused to leave his platoon.
Hutchinson was scheduled to take an emergency leave to see his critically ill grandmother in December 2003. On a final mission before his trip home, in the last vehicle of a convoy, he was killed by an improvised exploding device.
Shortly after his death, students at Hutchinson's high school, Clear Creek, took up a collection in his honor and approached Michael and Deborah about using it for a scholarship.
Community members did the same. These efforts to honor Hutchinson's memory brought community members healing, and a sense of family, Deborah said.
It became something so dear to so many people that Michael formed a foundation," she said.
The first foundation fund-raiser drew about 60 people.
A lot of tears and lots of Kleenex later, over 390 people will attend this year's event," foundation board member Ann Hacker said.
Hutchinson's older brother and sister-in-law, Lee Andrew Hutchinson and Laura Hutchinson, are regular foundation supporters. They're joined by people from throughout the community.
Their family grieves, and we feel this, but few have gotten an entire community to stand behind and support a foundation for new scholarships for needy students," Hacker said.
For more information, visit www.rjhfoundation.org.
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