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Photo by Garth Guibord
Welches Schools celebrates the life of Hollis Carpenter posted on 01/01/2022

Hollis Carpenter loved swings, both the tire and rope versions that her family have at their Mountain home. Hollis’ mother, Amber, remembers the time she spent out enjoying them.

 

“She would be out there for hours by herself,” Amber said, adding that Hollis had a “big imagination.”

Last month, thanks to donations from the community, the Welches Schools installed a new swing to remember and celebrate the life of Hollis, who died in a drowning accident at a summer camp on Aug. 21, 2020, despite wearing a life jacket.

“Hollis loved holidays, giving gifts, her birthday, celebrations,” Amber said. “Any excuse for a party or gathering, she was at the center of it.”

The swing, which will also feature a plaque dedicated to Hollis and painting by students at the school in the future, marks another moment where the Mountain community rallied around the Carpenter family and their loss. Donations totaled more than $15,000 for the new swing.

“To me, that is saying that so many people came together for a little girl and did that in her honor is huge,” Amber said, adding that her older daughter, who works at the school, has heard students talking about the new swing. “Even the younger kids know her and remember her.”

“Hollis Carpenter was a joy,” said Kendra Payne, Welches Schools Principal, adding that the model of swing selected is a Unity Swing, one fitting of Hollis. “She was kind and funny and fun. I will never forget her laugh, her bright eyes, her big smile and her sweet voice.”

In the aftermath of Hollis’ passing, the family set out to collect life jackets and install a station at the Pine Hollow reservoir, where they have a cabin. Amber estimated the effort garnered 200 lifejackets, made available in case anyone at the site who forgot one could recreate safely.

Amber added that support came from all over the community, including the Welches Liquor Store, the Rhododendron Dairy Queen, Coffee Brewsters, the Welches gas station, Skyway and so many more.

“It just goes so deep, where you don’t even realize,” she said. “The fact that my kid could drown while wearing a life jacket, it’s insane.”

In another example of how the community stepped up after Hollis’ passing, Amber recalled how the Riverside Fire that year forced the family to evacuate from their house. A custom-made urn had just arrived and was placed in their car, but it was broken into and the urn was stolen (no ashes were in the urn at the time).

Amber reached out to the man who had made it, who responded that a box would be arriving soon. An anonymous member of the Mountain community had tracked down the maker on Etsy and replaced it for the family.

“Somebody did that,” Amber said. “The effort to do that is so incredible, it just speaks volumes for our community. We still to this day do not know (who did it).”

Hollis’ middle name was Day, a contribution spurred on by her older sister because “Hollis Day” is close to “holiday.” And in light of that, the family and community have taken to the saying, “Make every day a Hollis Day,” a reminder to keep Hollis’ happy, kind and loving spirit alive every day.

“It represents her and a good overall quality of life,” Amber said, noting how the middle name was very appropriate for her daughter. “She would not want us to sit around; she’d want the party to go on. We’ve really tried to honor that.”

“She lived the biggest life for a 12-year-old,” Amber added, noting that Hollis got to travel to Puerto Rico and went to Disneyland three times in the year before she passed.

This year, the family also hopes to continue the efforts to protect children recreating on the water by adding a life jacket station at Trillium Lake.

By Garth Guibord/MT

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