Over 20 first responders received recognition, treated to goodie bags and a free lunch Dec. 31 from Hope Hunters, a Crofton-based initiative devoted to thanking first responders.
Hope Hunters, the brain-child of 7-year-old Penelope Chandler, was born out of a family tragedy. Penelope’s eldest cousin, Hunter Owens, died of an opioid overdose just days after his 21st birthday in September 2016.
Despite a 17-year age difference, the two cousins were close.
“I called him Hunti,” Penelope said. “He was silly. I miss that I can’t Facetime him. I used to do that a lot.”
The event was organized by Penelope and Erica Chandler, Penelope’s mother, in three weeks after receiving a $150 grant from ‘Kindness Grows Here,’ a Crofton nonprofit started by Kristen Caminiti.
Kindness Grows Here awarded 13 kindness grants to children in the United States and Canada who want to spread kind acts throughout their community. The winning applicants had plans to help foster children, the homeless, the elderly as well as students in their own respective schools.
“Penelope’s proposal stood out because Erica made sure to include Penelope’s words in the application. It was clear this wasn’t just a parent applying on behalf of her child,” said Caminiti. “It was clear Penelope was involved in coming up with the plan.
“There was such a personal drive in why they wanted to do this project. They were doing it in honor of Hunter and that made it noteworthy. Lastly, it was seeking to honor a group of people who I consider unsung heroes; people who are often overlooked but who make a huge impact.”
Penelope wanted to thank the first responders who worked to save Hunter.
“I knew they really helped others,” Penelope said. “I wanted them to know they did a really good thing. I think they tried to help fix him [Hunter].”
Each first responder at the event received a goodie bag and certificate of appreciation. The bags were filled with a reusable Starbucks travel cup, a chocolate bar, a gift card to Starbucks, herbal tea and organic lip balm. Each bag also included a laminated book mark designed by Penelope depicting a picture of her and Hunter and describing his story.
Lunch was provided by Mission BBQ of Waugh Chapel. Eight tables were littered with over 100 thank you cards from Penelope’s classmates at Crofton Woods Elementary School. A large, restaurant themed basket also went to Jennifer Corbin, director of the Anne Arundel County Crisis Response Team.
Corbin was thrilled with the event.
“It’s beyond amazing,” Corbin said. “We usually go from call to call to call. We got to sit down, take a breath and be appreciated. I’m really, really impressed. It’s a great start to the new year.”
In her opening speech, Chandler thanked the responders, as well as those who jumped on board when Penelope requested their help with the event. Namely Starbucks of Waugh Chapel, Mission BBQ and the Owl Bar. Kindness Grows Here was also thanked for the grant as were the students of Crofton Elementary School.
The event was healing for Hunter’s family.
Chandler took Hunter’s death particularly hard as she is a school psychologist and Certified Youth and Adult Mental Health First Aid Instructor. Hunter reached out to Chandler for her help.
“Before he died we spoke on the phone for hours,” Chandler said. “We just didn’t get to him in time. It was an exceptionally difficult loss.”
After achieving sobriety after years of struggle, Hunter was just shy of two years in recovery before his relapse and death. At the time Hunter was a sophomore at Florida Atlantic University and had hopes of becoming physician’s assistant. He had also met the love of his life. Hunter died nine days after his 21st birthday.
Chandler struggled emotionally after the loss wondering how she could help others when she felt she couldn’t even help Hunter. Then two things happened.
Chandler attended the county’s International Overdose Awareness Day in August 2017 and heard families’ stories of hope as well as survival after a loved one’s death. Shortly after Chandler’s father, Robert Dorfmeister Sr. reminded Chandler that without Hunter’s family’s intervention, he may not have even made it to his 21st birthday or fallen in love.
“Then it clicked,” Chandler said. “Penelope wanted to do something to show appreciation for first responders and when we saw the application for the Kindness Grows Here grant, we knew it would ignite our project into action.”
In her opening speech, Penelope expressed her feelings.
“[Hunter’s] brain was sick and he made a mistake and took too much medicine,” Penelope said. “Lots of people tried to help him, just like you. I know he is so happy you were born to help others.
“We wanted you to know you are loved by everybody, even people who already died. We hope more people can live because of your help. Thank you for being a “Hope Hunter.”
For more information on Hope Hunters, contact Erica Chandler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Future of the Mall
The Forum will present a discussion of the Future of the National Mall at noon Jan. 17. The public has a little voice in determining how the Mall can be used for First Amendment gatherings, cultural activities, recreation or what new museums or monuments could be added to the historic landscape, said Judy Feldman.
Feldman is founder and chairman of the National Mall Coalition. She will describe efforts to address these issues. The event is at Osaka’s Grill and Buffet, 633 Crofton Center For more information, call 410-562-8920.