CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. – The Cedar Springs community is mourning the loss of their beloved teacher and coach, “Scotty” Hazel, after his second battle with cancer.
Hazel passed away after a nine month battle with Liposarcoma last week. Hazel taught art and courses on U.S. history at Cedar Springs High School. Now former students and the community are remembering him through an outpouring of random acts of kindness.
Former student of his, Brandon Bauer, told FOX 17 that Hazel’s colleague, Ryan Whitmore, started the Facebook group called Random Acts of Hazel in his honor. The group asks the community to perform random acts of kindness and dedicate them to Hazel, and then share those acts with each other on their Facebook group.
Tammy Hazel, sister of Scotty Hazel, told FOX 17 that his motto was, “You should always be somebody who makes somebody feel like somebody.” It’s clear that Hazel continues to inspire the community to do just that.
“He left behind three great kinds and thousands of ‘adopted’ students, many of whom were only shown love by him,” said Bauer. “We started a group called Random Acts of Hazel where we do something for others, tell his amazing story, and then share the experience with the group! Our goal is to reach out to as many people as possible!”
Many people have already shared their kind acts on the group including paying for a stranger’s coffee and meals, visiting neighbors, and donating to Hazel’s children’s college fund. Many acts are documented with a picture of the act.
“If you’ve ever met him, spent any time with him, you’ll never forget him,” said Ryan Whitmore, a teacher at Rockford High School.
Or even if you never had the pleasure of knowing Scotty Hazel, his legacy continues to touch lives beyond the Cedar Springs and Rockford communities.
Whitmore started the Facebook group, Random Acts of Hazel, in honor of Hazel’s giving spirit. The group is bursting with membership and posted acts of kindness; fast enough that Whitmore said he has already received an act of kindness himself.
“He loved everybody and it’s shown by how much love we’ve received, even by complete strangers,” said Rebekah Hazel, eldest daughter of Hazel.
Hazel’s daughters Rebekah and Kaitlyn told FOX 17 that there is not one part of their lives their father did not inspire.
“Whenever you talked with him, there was a memory that was made,” said Kaitlin. “He’s proud of everyone and everything that they do. He was proud of you in some way.”
Fellow Cedar Springs High School Teacher and Soccer Coach Justin Harnden said Hazel found his calling as a teacher.
“He’s the heartbeat of the school,” said Harnden. “He has such pride in what he does.”
Those who knew and loved him said, “there’s no better way to remember Hazel than by giving to others.”
“Random Acts of Hazel is just about giving to one another,” said Whitmore. “You look in the news today and there are so many depressing things. You’d be amazing how good it feels to do even something small for a complete stranger. My six-year-old told me that, ‘Scotty’s right there dad, in your heart.’ I believe that.”
Tammy Hazel told FOX 17 that there were about 1,500 people who attended his visitation and funeral.
“Scotty was the kind of guy who made life happen,” said Tammy.
Tammy spoke about her brother as “making day dreams a reality”: for instance, Tammy said he came up with the idea to take students on a bicycle trip from Rockford to the Upper Peninsula. Then he led that trip several years in a row.
This fall several high school sports teams are planning on wearing purple jerseys in honor of Hazel’s battle with cancer. Many people throughout the community continue to wear Hazel bracelets and “Team Hazel” t-shirts, too.
In his first post in the Facebook group, Whitmore wrote, “This page was created to honor a great man Scotty Hazel. To participate simply perform a random act of kindness and dedicate it to him. Scotty was such a giving man. Let’s give back to others like he did to us. Report on this page your act. Let’s flood the Rockford, Cedar Springs and world with random acts of Hazel!!!! Love you Scotty.”