The Olentangy community has rallied together over the tragic deaths of two rising seniors at Liberty High School.
Friends, neighbors and relatives have supported the families of Gavin D. Schlotterbeck, 17, and Hunter D. McClelland, 17, both of Powell, after the two died Monday morning in a car crash.
At least three crowdfunding campaigns have raised more than $50,000 combined as of Wednesday evening to help both families with memorial services or to donate to charities Schlotterbeck volunteered at.
“He is the son any parent would want to have,” said Stacy Schlotterbeck, Gavin’s mother.
In addition, about 100 Olentangy students led a vigil at the high school Monday night, according to district officials. Some administrators, board members and staff attended the vigil.
“We are overcome with gratitude. There are no words to capture the outpouring of love and generosity from family, friends and our community. It has meant so much to our family,” said Stephanie McClelland, Hunter’s mom.
According to information provided by a family spokeswoman, Hunter McClelland had an eye for photography, loved hanging out with her family and being in the outdoors. The family said she had a love for the ocean, liked to dress up and how she enforced a no-decorating-for-Christmas policy until after Thanksgiving Day.
“She couldn’t do anything normal. She made everything an extreme sport,” said Reese McClelland, 14, Hunter’s only sister. She added that her sister made the best chocolate chip cookies and recalled the times they would dress up and take pictures outside for hours.
Her father, Darwin McClelland, said Friday nights will never be the same.
“Mom worked and that was my night with my girls,” he said.
“Hunter was a daddy’s girl but was just a younger version of me,” said Stephanie McClelland. “Her smile lit up an entire room and she made everything fun. She was beautiful, fun-loving, determined and creative with a strong moral compass. She knew right from wrong and chose the right.”
The family will have a memorial service for McClelland at Lifepoint Church, 7719 Graphics Way Lewis Center, 11 a.m. Friday.
Dean Fulks, lead pastor of Lifepoint Church in Lewis Center, said McClelland had a desire to care for other people and helped out during their services.
“She was a unique young lady,” he said.
McClelland and Schlotterbeck had dated for almost a year. Her family said they were always laughing and had fun together.
In addition, Schlotterbeck was well-liked by his peers and teachers and had a sense of humor, said William Warfield, Liberty High School principal.
“He just brought the classroom to life,” he said.
He said McClelland “was a really nice student” who took all the photography classes offered.
“They’ll both be missed,” he said.
Schlotterbeck played on the Liberty High School junior varsity hockey team, which met for the first time after his death Wednesday afternoon. Before the meeting, head coach Jack Hoogeveen said he planned to talk with the team about supporting each other and the things Schlotterbeck focused on.
“He was one of these kids who always wants to get better,” he said.
Hoogeveen said he encourages players to take the extra step for Schlotterbeck in their performance, and if they knew McClelland, “take two extra steps.”
The team will have scrimmages this week with St. Charles’ hockey team, which lost its own junior varsity teammate last year. Players will have the chance to relate and connect with each other, Hoogeveen said.
Schlotterbeck had volunteered at local organizations, including the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Powell and the Common Ground Free Store Ministries in Delaware with his family.
“They would come in and volunteer on a Saturday at the Free Store, just a super nice family giving back,” said Sharon Griner, executive director of the free store. “… We do share in their loss as they were a part of us at Common Ground.”
Schlotterbeck’s funeral service will take place at St. Joan of Arc Church, 10700 Liberty Road, Powell, 10 a.m. Monday.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol reported that the two-vehicle crash occurred at about 11:12 a.m. on Africa Road south of Plumb Road in Berlin Township. Schlotterbeck was driving northbound in a 2003 Toyota Camry that went off the right side of the road, over-corrected and went left of center where it was struck on the passenger side by a 2015 Jeep Wrangler driven by Emily R. Bensi, 19, of Westerville.
McClelland was Schlotterbeck’s passenger. Both were pronounced dead at the scene. Bensi and her passenger, Geneva Day, 12, of Columbus, were transported to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries. An OSHP dispatcher said Wednesday he was not certain but believed both were released from the hospital.
Troopers reported alcohol is not suspected in the crash and safety belts were used by all occupants when the crash occurred.
Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, the Berlin Township Fire Department, the Delaware County Highway Department and Delaware County EMS assisted the OSHP at the crash scene. OSHP said the crash remains under investigation at this time.
Visit www.gofundme.com/gavin-schlottereck-memorial to help the Schlotterbecks and www.gofundme.com/support-for-mcclelland-family.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.