Little Renny’s memory lives on in Alma
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Jack Crabtree was only five days away from his seventh birthday when he was killed in an ATV accident March 19.
Nicknamed “Little Renny” after his paternal grandfather for his scrawny physique, Jack had straw-colored hair and big blue eyes that would light up when he was excited - particularly when he would talk about dinosaurs.
“He was a dinosaur nut,” said Jack’s mom, Audrie Crabtree. “He could tell you anything about dinosaurs, and if you said anything wrong he would correct you.”
Audrie and her mother, Alicia Chesshir, wear necklaces that bear Jack’s name, a dinosaur charm and his birthstone.
“He wanted to be a farmer, or a paleontologist,” Audrie said. “I think one time he even combined it into a farmer paleontologist.”
Jack was driving a Polaris ATV with his dad Henry Crabtree and a family friend as passengers when it hit a bump in the pasture where they riding and flipped, according to police reports.
Henry and the friend were injured, but little Jack was killed when the vehicle landed on him, the reports state. He was reportedly wearing his seat belt.
Family and friends continue to recover from the shock of losing Jack so unexpectedly. More than a month after his death, his mother and grandmother are stilled stunned with disbelief.
But when they talk about him, describing him as “unselfish,” “sociable” and “goofy,” they are able to smile and laugh.
He “never met a stranger,” Chesshir said, and everyone in town knew him and his 10-year-old sister, Lettie.
Audrie tells how once, at a game, the ball landed in the area where Jack was playing with some friends. When he went to throw it back, he noticed everyone’s eyes on him.
Without hesitation, he stuck his thumbs in his ears, wiggled his fingers and stuck his tongue out at the crowd, making everyone laugh.
“I’d just want to ring his neck at times, and then he’d turn around and make me laugh,” Audrie said.
At Audrie’s request, friends and family posted their own personal stories about Jack on her Facebook page.
Jack is especially described as being a generous child, never forgetting Lettie when he was given a gift and always thinking of others in need.
One example of this generosity was in the extra snacks he started taking to school.
Audrie noticed the extras, she said, and asked Jack why he was taking so many. He told her that there were kids in his first-grade class at Alma Primary School that almost every day didn’t have a snack, and he was bringing the extras for those kids.
His teacher, Kristi Kasprytzki, can’t even be sure how many snacks Jack gave out because he was so discreet, she said. He never drew attention to what he was doing.
It was this generosity, remembered by Jack’s father, that helped begin the Jack’s Snacks program with the GFWC Women’s Community League of Alma.
The Women’s League already sponsors The Backpack Program for Alma, where they pack about 600 lunches a month for needy kids, said LouAnn Cagle, a Women’s League of Alma member.
In lieu of flowers, the family decided to ask mourners to donate money to the league instead. A collection was taken up at Jack’s funeral - in one of his dinosaur covered backpacks - that amounted to about $2,400.
More than $2,700 in total has been collected by the church and the Women’s League also has received donations.
Because so much money was collected, Women’s League members contacted the family about doing something different with the money. That is when they came up with Jack’s Snacks.
“To keep Jack’s legacy alive and to help kids,” Cagle said.
Created separately from The Backpack Program - which is just once a week - Jack’s Snacks are for any child who needs something to nibble on during the wait for lunch each day. It doesn’t matter whether the child can’t bring a snack or just forgot for that day.
Small plastic baskets filled with healthy and nutritious snacks are being set up at Alma Primary, starting with the kindergarten and Jack’s first-grade classes. The goal is to have a snack basket in every classroom, Cagle said.
Alma Primary has needed a program like this for a long time, Kasprytzki said. First grade kids, especially, have a long wait to lunchtime and need that extra snack, she said.
She was not surprised that Jack would inspire a program that gives back, she said.
“You have kids that are great and you love, but then you have kids that are something else,” Kaprytzki said. “Jack was one of those kids; he was special.”
Audrie and Chesshir, along with the Women’s League members, are hoping to make Jack’s Snacks a long-term program, they said. They are searching for ways to keep funding it.
Audrie has sold “friendship” bracelets with Jack’s name in the school store at Alma Intermediate to help raise money, and she and Chesshir have a few other ideas, as well, she said.
In addition, donations are still coming in and community members have organized several fundraisers for the family, Audrie said.
“I’m just overwhelmed by this community and what they’ve done,” Audrie said.
As for Jack, it’s obvious that he was a special boy that won’t soon be forgotten.
“For a little 6-year-old, he had a major impact on this community,” Chesshir said.
To donate for Jack’s Snacks, send a check or money order to Women’s Community League, P.O. Box 623 Alma, AR 72921. Donations also can be made to account no. 507310756 at Citizens Bank & Trust Company.