Hatton Elementary School meant a lot to 10-year-old
Sammy Cullen. Yesterday the school – teachers, students
and parents – let the boy’s family know he meant more to
loved Hatton. It’s his school and it always will be his
school,” said Hatton special education teacher Kathy
Berlin, who taught Sammy for four years.
Sammy died unexpectedly in June, a day after having a
10th surgery during his young life to correct his club
feet. To this day, his family doesn’t know what caused
his death, which happened a week after school had let
out for summer vacation.
But the students returned to school in late August with
Sammy in mind. Through a penny drive, they raised $470.
Yesterday, Sammy’s classmates planted a 7-foot spruce
tree and unveiled a monument outside the school
remembering their friend.
Sammy’s mom, dad, sister and other family and friends
stood nearby at the somber, funeral-like ceremony. They
gathered in a semicircle around the tree. The tree, the
monument, the gathering all meant a lot to Sammy’s
family, especially his mom, Karen Cullen.
“This means Sammy will live on forever,’ she said.
Hatton Principal Paul Green remembered Sammy as a
well-liked child. “He was an all-around good kid,” Green
said. “Everyone liked him. The fifth-graders on down
would help him get around because he couldn’t run or
things like that. But that kind of help is unusual.”
The money raised was supposed to be used to purchase the
tree and granite marker, those items ended up being
donated, according to school volunteer Charlotte Friend.
The school has another idea about how to use the money.
Friend said the Hatton Parent-Teacher Association will
buy books on diversity and dedicate a corner in the
school library to Sammy.
“Because Sammy was a special education student, we
thought it would be good to teach kids that it’s OK if
people are different because of a handicap or race or
whatever,” Friend said.
Sammy would like that, his family believes. Sammy liked
a lot of things and a lot of people. He was remembered
yesterday as someone who would get off the bus each
morning, hug people and say, “I like you.”
Sammy’s legacy for me is to look beyond the setbacks and
struggles,” said Berlin , his teacher. “To say ‘I like
you’ and ask to be liked in return was Sammy’s
judging from the school’s outpouring, many people did