“We Are Good. Life Is Good. It’s That Simple.”

Mike brought this article below by Graelyn Brashear to my attention.  As an avid surfer and Jersey resident, I’ve always been a big fan of Manasquan.  As a big fan of the saying “Life is good,” I couldn’t help but feel even more love for the town itself and its high school athletic trainer, Kevin Hyland.

My company starting providing the entertainment for the annual Allen & Company Summer Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho back in 2000, that’s where I first saw the “Life Is Good” expression on a t-shirt and immediately transferred the positive energy into my lifestyle.

manasquan

Manasquan High School students celebrate "Life Is Good" event. Staff Photo by: Thomas Costello

MANASQUAN — For two weeks, three small, hand-painted signs have hung on the wall in the Manasquan High School gym. Together, they read: “Every little thing you do comes back to you, so set the goodness in motion.”

In the hour before the final bell ended the school week Friday, that philosophy roared to life as the 1,000-plus-member student body joined teachers, administrators, alumni and others from the community in the gym for a surprise assembly built around a single theme: “Life is good.”

The event was conceived by school athletic trainer Kevin Hyland in the aftermath of the death of senior Matthew Caughey on Oct. 23.

Caughey, 17, of Spring Lake Heights, was the third Manasquan High student to be killed by a train since 2008, and the fourth student to die since last year.

The deaths rocked this borough and the small towns that make up Manasquan High’s sending districts. But as Hyland and many others see it, the tragedies don’t define the school or the people who learn and work there.

"Life Is Good." logo

"Life Is Good." logo

Hyland, who also teaches at the school, said Friday’s event was an opportunity for students.  “We wanted to give them a chance to be positive,” Hyland said.

At Caughey’s funeral, Hyland saw a Jeep touting the logo of a popular T-shirt company, “Life is good.” He couldn’t get the words out of his head.

They also resonated with David Schenke, 15, whose brother Tim was struck by a train and killed in April 2008. One late October afternoon, he and Hyland were talking about the boys who had died.

“We decided we wanted to do something good instead of just saying we miss them and stuff,” Schenke said.

Hyland and Schenke started a quiet campaign to raise funds for a feel-good party for the whole school. Matt Caughey’s sister Megan and other students and recent graduates who had lost siblings and friends joined the effort.

One of Mke's favorite "Life Is Good" T-Shirts.

One of Mke's favorite "Life Is Good" T-Shirts.

After one call from Hyland, the Life is Good clothing company, whose logo had inspired the plan, offered $13,000 worth of T-shirts and other gear to give away. In just 72 hours, Hyland and the students raised $12,000 from generous families to buy more shirts, and they started planning the pep rally to end all pep rallies.

Just after 1 p.m. Friday, students poured into the gymnasium by the dozens as three of their classmates pounded out rock tunes on a drum set and two guitars. Shirts and frisbees were launched into the eager crowd by teachers wearing matching “Life is good” sweat shirts.

By the time Hyland took the microphone, the bleachers were buzzing with anticipation. Curiousity turned to wild enthusiasm as the popular trainer and teacher drove home his point: Nobody needs to feel sorry for Manasquan High.

“Today, we want to let everybody outside these red brick walls know that we’re all right,” he said. “We go to Manasquan, and we are proud.”

Hyland had to raise his voice above the cheers to finish his speech.

“This day is about the things . . . that inspire us the most,” he cried. “We are good. Life is good. It’s that simple.”

Photo By: Andrew Mills      Surf's Up in Manasquan, February 2008

Surf's Up in Manasquan, February 2008 Photo by: Andrew Mills

Manasquan Mayor George R. Dempsey Jr., himself a graduate of the high school, read a proclamation declaring Dec. 11 “Life Is Good Day” in the borough.

Students applauded as nine classmates were given prizes for inspirational essays they’d written in the weeks before the event. The pieces recalled a host of happy things, from hometown pride to the simple pleasure of warm sand on a summer day.

Before the students donned their own “Life is good” T-shirts and walked shoulder-to-shoulder out of the gym toward waiting buses and cars, overall essay winner Inga Sinneck read her words aloud.

She had a lot to be thankful for, Sinneck said, and she explained why. Abandoned at a bus stop in Lithuania with her younger sister at age 4, Sinneck today is part of a loving, adoptive family.

“Life in itself is good, and is a gift to be treasured,” she said.

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