Grace Roark would have turned 18 on Tuesday. It would have been her senior year at Yukon High School.
Instead, her family spent the day handing out gift cards to random people in Yukon to celebrate her life. Later in the evening, they dedicated a bench honoring her in the courtyard of Yukon High School.
The dedication ceremony drew dozens of her friends and family. Even some people who did not know the girl with a giving heart joined the celebration.
Grace died last September in a car accident in southwestern Oklahoma. She was on her way home after visiting family friends.
In December, looking for a way to honor their daughter, Travis and Betsy Roark formed a foundation, Grace Changes Everything.
As part of that effort, Grace’s family and other volunteers spend time working with a teen homeless shelter in downtown Oklahoma City known as SiSU.
Betsy Roark the group works routinely with the shelter helping to clean, organize their clothes closet and other projects.
“Whatever they need us to do, we do,” she said. “We’ve paid for meals a couple of times, we’ve donated money out the foundation account.
Roark said this year, they felt it appropriate to give back to the community. That’s why they purchased several gift cards and handed them out to random people.
That evening, at the dedication ceremony, she said there were a lot of tears. Not necessarily from sorrow, but from just knowing the type of person their daughter was.
“Our biggest fear is that she will be forgotten. It might be like she wasn’t around. We don’t want that,” Roark said.
This would have been her senior year. Roark said they want to finish with grace.
The metal and wood bench has been placed in the courtyard where Roark and her friends frequently ate their lunches and took breaks.
“It was the best place for them to go and sit. Her friends were excited about getting to go and eat on the bench,” Roark said Wednesday. “We wanted to dedicate it there. She loved Yukon and she loved Yukon schools.”
Roark, who is a special education teacher in Piedmont, said her daughter had the option to attend Piedmont schools, but chose to stay with her friends in Yukon.
“She wanted to be in Yukon,” she said.
Roark also said that Grace’s legacy is still touching her classmates
“It’s not just us. There is rarely a day that goes by that someone doesn’t talk about her,” she said.
Roark said one of her main goals is to create an anti-bullying program through the school district.
“She didn’t put up with bullying,” her mother said during an earlier interview.
She was instrumental in starting anti-bullying efforts at the middle school level.
“If you see someone who needs help, just help them out,” she said.
“This was not about the bench. It was what the bench stood for. It was to keep her and what she stood for in your thoughts,” she said.