Marina High School has announced a series of fundraisers in the coming weeks for the family of Austin Brashears, the class of 2009 graduate who died Saturday in a crash in New Zealand.
Principal Paul Morrow said the school has partnered with a pair of Huntington Beach eateries and plans to collect funds on campus to send to Brashears' family, which is trying to raise enough to have his body transported back to the United States.
The first fundraiser began at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Hot Off the Grill at 16522 Bolsa Chica St. The restaurant planned to keep the fundraiser going until 11 p.m. and donate all proceeds from interested customers to the Bring Austin Home campaign, as it's formally known on PayPal.
Cherry on Top, a frozen yogurt shop at 7011 Warner Ave., has a fundraiser planned from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday. The shop will donate 30% of proceeds from any customers who mention the campaign.
The school also plans to gather donations through a Miracle Minute fundraiser, in which the student body passes around a bucket for 60 seconds and classmates drop in donations. The date has not yet been set.
Marina has hosted change drops in the past for community members facing medical expenses or other issues, raising as much as $3,000, according to Morrow.
Students are taking standardized tests this week, and the school tries to avoid sensitive classroom announcements during test days, he said. However, the news has already traveled around campus.
"They all know," he said. "It's all over Facebook and word of mouth. It's a big school, but it's a small town. Everyone knew the Brashearses or knew of them."
George Stavros, owner of Hot Off the Grill, never met Brashears, but he was motivated to host a fundraiser after hearing that his restaurant was one of his favorite social spots around town.
"I have four kids, and I just can't believe the pain that family's going through," Stavros said.
Cherry on Top owner Rob Steinberg said several of his employees went to school with Brashears. Usually, his shop donates 20% of proceeds for fundraisers, but he decided to increase it due to the high costs the family is facing.
"I know every dollar helps," Steinberg said.
Brashears, who was studying abroad with Boston University at the time of his death, played water polo and volleyball at Marina. He listed himself on Facebook as an alumnus of the school and posted side-by-side maps of Huntington Beach and Auckland, New Zealand.
Morrow said in the weeks before Brashears' death, he had gotten word of two other former Marina students dying, one of leukemia and one in an accident. The news put him in a reflective mood.
"I'm pretty familiar with my kids," he said. "All of them great kids. All of them nothing but potential in their futures, great families, all the support they need. All taken from us way too early."