“Be Like Tyler” was the theme Friday morning at Oaklyn Public School, where a “buddy bench” was installed in memory of Tyler Quinter, a 13-year-old whose death in May after a lifelong struggle with two rare heart defects left many heartbroken.
Among those on hand were teachers and hundreds of children from the school that he attended and where his generous spirit was recalled Friday by speakers.
“This bench symbolizes what Tyler was all about. The bench will offer comfort to people, just as Tyler offered comfort to so many others,” said Mary Ellen O’Donnell, one of his teachers.
The “buddy bench” will be a haven for those who feel lost or down on their luck, principal Jennifer Boulden said. Another person will see that someone is on the “buddy bench,” and sit down next to that person and offer comfort.
Also present were members of the Oaklyn Police Department, where Tyler Quinter, who had aspirations of becoming a police officer, had become a familiar figure.
He became an internet darling beyond the town of 4,000 people last year after five Dallas officers were killed in an ambush, when he posted on Facebook an image of himself in his Halloween police costume saluting the American flag at half staff.
The only child died May 7 after battling hypoplastic left heart syndrome and truncus arteriosus.
The “buddy bench” was donated by Paw It 4ward, a dog-rescue foundation with which the Quinter family has a long relationship. “Tyler was such a big part of the foundation. He was pretty much the lifeline of our junior volunteers, and we miss him very much,” said Azita Kay, president of the foundation.
The Quinters’ pit bull, Hudson, was adopted from the foundation as a puppy, and Tyler Quinter encouraged people to donate to Paw It 4ward. To the joy of many, Hudson also made an appearance at the ceremony.
Many at the event wore black T-shirts with the message, “Be Like Tyler,” along with matching wristbands.
“Be like Tyler and always do the right thing,” Kay told the audience.
Tyler’s parents, Mark, 43, and Lori, 41, were greeted with words of sympathy and comfort from teachers, friends, and others who were affected by Tyler’s positive presence.
Mark Quinter works as a surgical supply manager for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Lori is an administrative employee in a dermatology practice.
O’Donnell told of how Tyler once helped make a new student comfortable by giving her one of his prized possessions: a small ball of fuzz, which O’Donnell fondly remembered him calling a “wooby.”
She recalled that Tyler would share everything except the “wooby,” which was very special to him. But when the new girl joined the class, he saw her discomfort and sadness, walked over to her, and gave her the toy, saying, “This will make you feel better.”
“That is when I knew I was in the presence of an extraordinary young man,” O’Donnell said.
“The world today is not what it used to be. We can make it a lot better,” Mark Quinter said. “One random act of kindness may change the next person’s life. If we just keep paying it forward, it will definitely make a change throughout the world.”