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Everyday Heroes: Softball for the soul

Chris, Kegan and Garrett all died in a car accident in 2008.

The softball fields at Timber Linn Park are drenched. The sand in the diamond has turned to mud that won’t let go of your shoe, and the outfield looks more like an "outpuddle."

But that wouldn’t have stopped a dedicated softball player like Chris Lukesic.

“He’d be out running in shorts,” Chris’ dad, Terry Lukesic, told KATU.

Chris’ mom, Karen, agreed.

“This wouldn’t stop him,” she said.

Chris used to play on these fields. And his two sons, Garrett, 6, and Kegan, 3, used to cheer him on.

“Even if Chris didn’t need to slide, he would slide,” Karen said, smiling at the memory of her son’s enthusiasm for the game.

Chris, Kegan and Garrett all died in a car accident in 2008.

Karen admits, after her son died, for a while she didn’t know what to do with herself.

“For me the world was supposed to stop,” she said. “The world wasn’t supposed to go on. I curled up in a corner for a long time, and I didn’t want to come out. And I finally realized that that’s not what my son would want me to do.”

Chris’ softball friends were a big help. They organized a softball tournament at Timber Linn to honor Chris and his sons the year after they died.

“If it wasn’t for Chris’ softball friends and softball family, I don’t think we would’ve gotten through it,” Karen said.

Karen and Terry loved the tournament so much, they decided to make it an annual tradition. And to honor Chris’ spirit of giving, they turned the tournament into a fundraiser for a scholarship they established in his name at his alma mater, West Albany High School.

So far, the annual tournament has raised about $9,000.

But Karen and Terry wanted to do more to honor the memory of their son and grandsons.

“Our son was a giver,” Karen said. “It makes me feel better knowing that I’m continuing to do what he would be doing.”

So Karen and Terry decided to start the annual Garrett and Kegan School Supply Giveaway. Karen and Terry buy backpacks and fill them with school supplies -- using mostly their own money -- and give them to kids in local elementary schools.

They’ve handed out more than 500 backpacks full of supplies since 2010.

“When they get a backpack from us, they get everything they need in there,” Karen said.

Karen and Terry told KATU they haven’t been the same since their son’s death, but they do find happiness in knowing Chris and his sons are fondly remembered.

“That’s the biggest thing for me is knowing that Chris and the boys are not being forgotten,” Karen said. “That out of something that was so horribly wrong, something good can be there.”

Karen and Terry said they couldn’t hold the tournament without the help of Albany Parks and Recreation, which donates the softball fields to them.

If you’d like to give to the scholarship or school supply effort, click here to get in touch with the Lukesics.

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