On the groups first day at the worksite, Jose Abreu, Director of Cambiando Vidas dedicates the groups house build in honor of Aiden Day ’17. It was an impactful way to begin the day. Trip leader Sheryl Koyama shares a tribute to Aiden below.
Aiden Day, Deerfield class of 2017, first came to the Dominican Republic when he was a middle school student at Bement. During his time at Deerfield he came to the DR on two house builds and he was the first to pick up a shovel or a small child. Every time Jose visited Deerfield he would remind me ahead of time, “Hey, Sheryl. Make sure that I get to see Aiden. He is my son.” During Aiden’s first trip to the DR, one of the small boys from the orphanage pulled Aiden aside and gave Aiden his most prized possession, a round rock. He wanted Aiden to keep it because he wanted it to be safe. Aiden kept that rock safe and today we returned it to the DR and placed it in the front corner of the house in his honor. After a valiant fight with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, Aiden died on August 29, 2020. With the exception of Ella, for whom Aiden babysat when she was a child, none of the students on this build knew Aiden, but they know of him. He is prominently featured in the DA Cambiando Vidas video https://deerfield.edu/travel-programs/dominican-republic and each student is carrying in their journals a piece of paper with an a picture of the stone by the memorial tree that was planted outside John Williams dormitory in Aiden’s memory on one side, and an entry from Aiden’s CV journal on the other. The plaque on the stone says, “Aiden Francesco Day ‘17 1998-2020. He always put the needs of others before himself, sharing these words: ‘Every person has a place of goodness in their heart; it is our job to help bring it out into the world.’” In his journal entry he wrote, “There is a difference between a house and a home. I define home as a place where you feel the happiest. It’s the place you feel the safest, the place that brings back the most memories, the place where you feel you belong.”
I apologize for the sound quality of this video, but perhaps it is fitting that the cement mixer is churning away in the background. Aiden would have heard that sound, picked up a shovel and shouted, “Come on guys, let’s GO!” When we give the keys of the house to the family on Sunday, we will do so in honor of Aiden and with the hopes that the house will become their home.
Click here to view Jose’s dedication of the build
Click here to view a video of the group offering a word about the day.