When Jimmy Crabtree was fighting cancer, the community stepped up to help him and his wife, Lorie, and two children, Jacob and Mattie. After his death on April 5, 2011, the extended Crabtree family vowed to pay it forward and, at the same time, keep the beloved husband, father, son and brother's memory alive.
The Jimmy Crabtree Cancer Fund was established, a board of directors was named, and events were planned to raise money to assist cancer patients in the area.
Jacob Crabtree, now a senior at Ocoee High School, was among the family members appointed to serve on the board.
“It was a joint decision between the family,” he said. “My mom and dad always wanted to do something to pay back the community because the community had done so much for them.”
Crabtree's work on the board has earned him the recognition of being a Florida's Distinguished Finalist for 2016 through The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The honor is bestowed upon high school seniors who display impressive acts of volunteerism. The top state winners received a trip to Washington, D.C., and a $1,000 scholarship.
He learned of the award in early February when his principal, William Floyd, called him into his office to share the congratulatory letter that was mailed to Ocoee High.
Crabtree has also received letters from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, State Sen. Geraldine F. Thompson and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
Scott wrote: “You are an inspiration to families dealing with cancer, and you honor your father through your work. I am confident that your dedication and service will be of great benefit to you throughout your life, and I encourage you to continue to set goals and work hard.”
Crabtree does, indeed, honor his father with every check he and his family are able to donate to West Orange County residents fighting cancer. To be recognized for his work on behalf of his father is even more special.
“It's really cool that it’s because of the cancer fund, because of my association with that and my dad's legacy,” he said. “It's really cool to live up to that. … I'm sure he would be proud.”
Crabtree will also receive a bronze medal on Ocoee High's senior awards night. He is dual-enrolled at Valencia College and, upon graduation from OHS, will be just 14 credit hours shy of earning his Associate in Arts. He has applied to Stetson University, Florida Gulf Coast University and the University of West Florida.
He has also received the President’s Volunteer Service Award, which included a letter from President Barack Obama.
“Jacob is a wonderful young man deserving of this, and many more, awards,” Principal Floyd said. “He is generous to a fault.”
Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].