SHREVEPORT, La. (ABP) –- The mayor of Shreveport, La., has proclaimed Saturday, Oct. 29, “Maggie Lee for Good Day,” honoring the memory of a 12-year-old girl who died three years ago from injuries in a bus accident while traveling to summer camp with her church youth group.
Mayor Cedric Glover planned to present the proclamation to Jinny Henson, Maggie Lee’s mother, at the Oct. 25 city council meeting, Rod Richardson, the mayor’s director of communications, said Oct. 24.
The proclamation urges all citizens to do at least one good deed to honor a girl’s spirit and commitment that prompted family and friends to community service and to perform thousands of good deeds.
Shreveport organizations such as The NWLA Food Bank, Community Renewal International, VOA Lighthouse Program, Providence House, Veteran’s Transitional Housing, Life Share Blood Centers, The Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission, HUB Urban Ministries and Robinson’s Rescue have benefitted from Maggie Lee for Good Day, first observed in 2009.
This year local events include food and clothing drives, charity bake sales, a youth choir concert at a nursing home, a community-wide house and yard spruce up and a “monster dodge ball” party hosted by Maggie Lee’s younger brother, Jack.
“Mayor Glover, like a lot of people, was touched by Maggie Lee’s courage, faith and the life that she lived,” Richardson said. “Like Maggie Lee, the mayor comes from a background dedicated to community services, so his support comes naturally.”
Maggie Lee Henson was one of 17 teenagers and six adult chaperones who left First Baptist Church in Shreveport in the wee hours of July 12, 2009, headed for a weeklong camp operated by Passport, a partner of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Riding on Interstate 20 near the Alabama/Mississippi state line, a tire on their bus blew out, causing the driver to lose control. The vehicle rolled three times, ejecting passengers, before landing on its side.
Brandon Ugarte, 14, who was active in the youth group but not a church member, died on the way to the hospital. Other passengers survived injuries ranging from severe pelvic, back and chest injuries to scrapes and scratches.
Maggie Lee was taken to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson with severe head trauma, where she lingered for three weeks before succumbing to death Aug. 2. During that time her parents wrote from her bedside on CaringBridge.org, a website for sharing medical information, sharing not only updates on her condition but candid journals of their experience of hopes and setbacks.
Those postings attracted more than 200,000 visits and 4,000 guestbook entries, mostly from strangers moved by the story. Thousands more joined in praying for the family through the social-media site Facebook.
Kelli Alamond, a mother of two teenagers from Texarkana, Texas, who did not know the Hensons personally but nevertheless began moderating a group called Praying for FBC Shreveport and Celebrating the spirit of Maggie Lee Henson.
After Maggie Lee’s death, Alamond wanted to continue to engage the huge online community that had developed. She suggested that individuals perform a good deed in the girl’s memory on what would have been her 13th birthday, Oct. 29. New Facebook and web pages popped up promoting the day as “Maggie Lee for Good,” based on a line from a song played at her funeral from her favorite Broadway musical, Wicked: “Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But because I knew you I’ve been changed for good.”
The initial goal in 2009 was 1,300 participants in honor of Maggie Lee’s 13th birthday. Due to overwhelming response, that was upped quickly to 13,000. When it was all said and done nearly 18,000 individuals had used the day to perform a good deed they might not have done otherwise.
In 2010 Maggie Lee for Good projects included building a home in Haiti for a family living under a plastic tarp supported by sticks, drilling a well in Malawi, sending candy to U.S. troops and helping raise funds for a 4-year-old boy in need of a service dog.
The theme for Maggie Lee for Good Day is: “One day; one deed, one difference.”
“Maggie Lee for Good Day on October 29th is set apart as a day of caring where one deed can make a huge difference in another person’s life,” said Jinny Henson, a Christian comic, speaker and writer.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.
Thousands of acts of kindness memorialize church-bus-crash victim