Hundreds of Shenendehowa High School kids wore black “homecoming” T-shirts Friday night as the varsity football team hosted Albany.
In a small way, the shirts helped remember absent friends.
Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers were on the minds of many in the crowd of 4,000 at Brent T. Steuerwald Stadium. Earlier in the day, Dennis Drue pleaded guilty to a 58-count indictment in the December auto accident that killed the two 17-year-old Shen students and injured two of their friends.
On Friday, football also meant giving back.
“What we do during our homecoming week is we sell T-shirts,” said Shenendehowa athletic director Chris Culnan. “Out of that, we give a donation each year to a charity. This year, because of the way the community rallied around us last year, we’re giving the donation to CAPTAIN Youth and Family Services in Clifton Park. They’re getting a $5,000 donation as part of the proceeds from the T-shirt sales.
“It’s all part of the idea that our community came together for our school and our kids at a time of need,” Culnan added. “We felt it was important to give back to the community.”
There was no moment of silence for Stewart and Rivers during the Friday homecoming.
“We did that opening night,” Culnan said. “Opening night was an opportunity for the community to come out. The last time they had been on the field was during the vigil back in December. That night was about getting the team back on the field. Tonight’s about our homecoming game.”
Culnan and Oliver Robinson, Shenendehowa’s superintendent, said people were aware of the Drue court appearance.
“I think a lot of people see it as closure, as relief,” Robinson said. “There’s a time to turn the page and stop thinking about the negative aspect of it and really remember Chris and Deanna, who they were. ... I think it’s time for people to take a breath.”
Robinson said he believes students have come to appreciate each other more since the accident.
“I think the kids have come together as a group, as a school,” he said. “It came from the tragic situation. That’s part of the legacy that Chris and Deanna are leaving; they’re leaving a spirit of excitement and enthusiasm. I see it when I walk in the schools, there’s a different vibe.”
Michael and Regina Stewart, Chris’s parents, were at the game. Regina was in the stands, Michael on the sidelines, wearing his son’s No. 69 football jersey in Shenendehowa green.
“It makes me feel good being here,” Michael Stewart said. “For me, Christopher played in the Shenendehowa system for 12 years. Just being on the field as I was for all of his games, I just feel closer to him.”
People at the game also remembered Chris and Deanna. Tina Browne of Clifton Park, whose son Brent plays junior varsity football, said he hopes Drue gets his “just dues.”
“He caused a lot of pain to others through his inconsiderations,” she said as she worked one of the school concession stands.
Jodi Galpin, a 1994 Shenendehowa graduate, said Drue’s actions affected more than four families.
“It was a whole community that he devastated by his actions,” she said. “He owes the whole community an apology.”