Tucked away on an end table in his parents’ home, a single black photo album reveals one man’s story.
At first glance it appears to be like any other. A single photo — one of him smiling as he stands on the sidelines at Braden River High School — graces the cover. It shows a coach doing what he does best — listening, teaching and helping to shape his players for what’s to come.
In many ways it’s the perfect photo to introduce this man’s story and yet it’s only just the beginning. After all it’s what’s inside that truly captures coach Doug Garrity’s spirit.
Only this album isn’t filled with family photos or football mementos. In fact you won’t find a single photo tucked deep away inside its pages. Instead, dozens of white 3x5 index cards fill the pages — each one a handwritten, heartfelt message such as these from a player, student, friend or colleague.
“… he was the best coach and teacher ever … he taught us so much on and off the field … he pushed me to be stronger … you were an inspiration to us all … helping me to become what I am today … I will win states for you … we’ll work harder like you want … the way you encourage me to get better every day … taught me it’s OK to be yourself …”
It’s these words, which serve as a constant reminder to John and Dehlia Garrity of the impact their son had on those around him. And it’s these words and their son’s memory, which the Garritys hope will inspire every student that walks through the halls of Braden River High.
“Each time is very emotional,” Doug's mother Dehlia Garrity says of reading the messages. “These are things that they would say about Doug or to Doug. These are the things and the people he inspired.”
It’s been six months since Doug Garrity, 27, was killed in a motor vehicle accident; and at 7 p.m. tonight the Braden River High family and the community will gather at the school in tribute to their beloved teacher, coach and friend.
Prior to the Pirates’ district game versus Bayshore, the Braden River High Athletic Booster Club will formally dedicate a memorial tribute, which has been constructed just outside the football stadium, in honor of Garrity. A scholarship fund has also been established in Garrity’s name.
Oh hand for tonight’s memorial tribute dedication will be Doug Garrity's parents, John and Delia Garrity, Doug Garrity’s brother, Patrick, former Bayshore Athletic Director, Mario Valcarcel, and coaches Willie Brown and Jim Cooper, some of his former teammates and Robert “Pig” Goff, Doug Garrity’s mentor.
John and Dehlia Garrity initially learned about the memorial tribute to their son during the Pirates’ first home game against Lakewood Ranch after seeing a booth filled with pictures of their son and flyers seeking donations for the Doug Garrity Memorial and Scholarship Fund.
Needless to say, the two were at a loss for words.
“It was very awe inspiring that they would consider doing something like this for Douglas,” Dehlia Garrity said. “The thing that surprises me the most is that this is the booster club doing this, so it’s the parents who saw how Douglas affected their children.”
“It’s one thing to know that your son is working with kids, but after the tragic accident all of these people that we didn’t know, all of the players, all of these kids… the support in the number of people that attended the services and the funeral … it’s kind of still going on,” Doug Garrity's father John Garrity said.
During the memorial tribute, John and Dehlia Garrity will also present the school with a wooden plaque in memory of their son and in honor of last year’s football team, which recorded the program’s first winning season.
The plaque features a photo of Doug Garrity surrounded by the symbolic chain that was given to John and Dehlia Garrity during their son’s funeral, a football signed by all of last season’s coaches and players, a team picture, a list of all the players and coaches and the Pirates’ schedule from last season.
John and Dehlia Garrity had been looking for a creative way to return the chain back to the players ever since it was given to them in March. But it wasn’t until Braden River linebacker Trevor Barnes’ father, Ben, approached the Garritys that the idea for the plaque came to fruition.
“That chain is a beautiful piece of artwork,” Dehlia Garrity said. “We knew how much it meant to them.”
“We just wanted to get the chain back to the boys because that’s where it belongs,” John Garrity said.
Ben Barnes, along with Jeff Phillips and Tom Meador, talked to the players about what they would like to do with the chain and the players responded by asking to turn the chain into some type of plaque to commemorate the 2008 football team and its first winning season.
The group spent about two months collecting donations and working on the plaque, so that it would be ready for tonight’s memorial tribute.
“The last six months the (school and the community) have really helped us with our closure,” Dehlia Garrity said. “The plaque — it’s our way of saying 'thank you.'"
For more information on the Doug Garrity Memorial and Scholarship Fund or to make a donation visit the Braden River High Athletic Booster Club Web site at www.brhsab.com.
For a complete story on tonight’s memorial tribute, including an in-depth interview with John and Dehlia Garrity pick up the Oct. 1 edition of the East County Observer.