Chris Hurd has never forgotten the first flier he came across at an Orcutt elementary school, the one touting a fundraiser for a smiley 9-year-old girl who had cancer.
Hurd, a lifelong Orcutt resident, also remembers two years ago when the fliers with pictures of the Ralph Dunlap fourth-grader stopped popping up on hallway bulletin boards and classroom windows.
At Thanksgiving that year is when fellow Orcutt district employee and cook Sandy Chavez lost her granddaughter, Rosie, to a four-year battle with leukemia.
The memory of the flier and Rosie’s story stuck with Hurd another year, until it manifested into an idea: keeping the little girl’s name alive by establishing a scholarship to be awarded annually in her honor at Orcutt Academy High School.
“I have always just had a really soft heart for people,” Hurd told Noozhawk. “I thought, what can I do, you know, to kind of pitch in? I had this in the back of my mind.”
With help from Sandy Chavez and generous community members, Hurd raised enough money to distribute three $500 scholarship to seniors of the high school’s first graduating class last spring.
Hurd, 57, hopes that Rosie’s memory and scholarship will inspire graduates of the new school to do good works out in the world, too.
As a born-again Christian, Hurd said he has always tried to help those in need.
He graduated from Righetti High School in 1974, moved to Hawaii two years later to surf, and had no intention of coming back until his parents recalled him to the mainland because they were in poor health.
Hurd traded messy bleach-blond locks for a dark clean-cut look more conducive to finding a good job to support a wife and son.
After working in a grocery store, starting a landscaping business, and switching over to the beverage merchandising and sales business, Hurd landed a job at the Orcutt district, where his wife of 33 years, Christie, works as an instructional assistant.
Hurd has worked his way up through the ranks, spending his few free hours running a side vintage motorcycle business.
“I knew if I could get my foot in the door, I could get where I wanted to go,” he said. “My thing has always been to do a really good job.”
Hurd said he and Chavez are gearing up for another year of fundraising, hoping to raise at least another $1,500 in donations to the high school to award the same number of scholarships.
Orcutt Academy Principal Ted Lyon said he and the district have appreciated both their efforts.
“Anytime someone is willing to work hard to kind of keep someone’s memory alive, and use that opportunity to help others, it’s a great thing,” Lyon said. “It was the first scholarship that was 100 percent-focused on Orcutt Academy.”
Hurd said he considers himself blessed to have had such community support behind a sweet girl who loved learning.
“No matter who you are, you can do awesome things out there,” he said. “I’m kind of proud of being the kind of guy that I turned out to be. A lot of us think, what is my purpose here? We’re here to be there for people who need us. She really impacted a lot of people. I did not know Rosie, but I didn’t have to.”