A day to honor Jana
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
A day to honor Jana
They were high school students helping out on a pleasant Sunday afternoon when they probably would have been outdoors soaking up an unseasonably warm late-winter day.
Instead, as part of a volunteer service project on Jana Mackey Day in Kansas, Beth Channell, Emilie Taylor, Rachel Jacobs and Rebecca Pray were busy painting rooms in the residence that houses the offices of Northwest Kansas Domestic and Sexual Violence Services.
Their friendly banter as they covered the walls with much-needed paint would have made Mackey smile.
A second-year law student at the University of Kansas, Mackey -- an avid advocate for social justice -- died in July as a result of domestic violence.
Mackey, 25, grew up in Hays, where her mother and stepfather, Christie and Curt Brungardt, teach at Fort Hays State University.
The idea for a national service campaign spawned from a talk given by Mackey's step-dad and others at her memorial service in Lawrence.
Mackey's family had decided to have the service in Liberty Hall because they were expecting several hundred people to attend.
But they were overwhelmed when 1,100 people showed up on that hot summer day to pay their respects, and speakers talked about "picking up Jana's fallen torch" and "carrying her causes forward."
Curt Brungardt talked about how Mackey's "single torch has turned into 1,100 torches here today."
Inspired by that number and looking for ways to carry on their daughter's legacy, the Brungardts started a Web site, 1100torches.org, to inspire others to make a difference by serving others in some way.
Earlier this month, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius proclaimed "Jana Mackey Day in Kansas" on International Women's Day, which was Sunday.
So the Eleven Hundred Torches campaign partnered with several organizations to perform service projects scheduled in Hays and Lawrence, where Mackey spent the last eight years of her life while attending KU.
About 50 people participated at the Hays site.
Like in Hays, volunteers at the Lawrence project -- which the Brungardts attended -- were able to choose from several projects, including making care packages for a women's shelter and cleaning and signing letters to legislators in support of continued funding for domestic violence shelters and programs.
Projects in Hays included reading, playing cards, painting fingernails and spending time with the elderly at a couple of nursing facilities, work at the Red Cross office and cleaning the former Kansas Department of Transportation building at 22nd and Vine.
Then there were the four freshmen girls from Thomas More Prep-Marian High School and a couple of parents who painted the NKDSVS offices.
Much like Mackey, they were enjoying themselves even while working toward a good cause.
"I'm not a very good painter. Wanna trade?" Jacobs said with a giggle as she asked Pray, who was edging round window sills and trim, to take on roller duty.
In another room, Channell likened the painting to a childhood activity as she used a plastic edger to smoothly paint beside some door trim.
"I feel like a kindergartner again, this is so much fun," she said, quickly changing her mind when she reached a lightswitch and dripped paint onto the plastic switchplate.
"Maybe this edger is not my thing anymore," said Channell, who kept working nonetheless.
Jennifer Rogers of the Eleven Hundred Torches campaign said Sunday's day of service was a good opportunity to give "ordinary citizens" a chance to make a difference.
"It's something they might necessarily wouldn't have done," Rogers said. "I know I have been inspired by Jana."