Sunday, October 10, 2004

A high school reunion is typically a weekend event that gives former students a chance to reconnect with long-lost friends, make some new ones and stroll down memory lane.

But the members of Robert E. Lee High School class of ‘94 from Springfield went a step further over the weekend when they marked their 10-year reunion: They held a charity event to help raise money for a scholarship fund set up in memory of their classmate Grier Hansen, who died of a heart attack three years ago at age 25.

“[His death] was a big blow,” said Alice Crisci, 28, who organized the 10-year reunion in his memory. “I was devastated. I couldn’t believe it. He was young and thinner than he’d ever been and life was good for him.”

Mr. Hansen, of Fairfax, died Oct. 14, 2001, of an undetected heart condition while on his way home from a weekend at the beach with 15 of his high school friends, including Miss Crisci.

Miss Crisci, who now lives in California, said she decided to organize the fund-raiser, called the Martini Project, which asked the 60 classmates who attended the reunion to make a $50 donation in Mr. Hansen’s name. The fund-raiser included an open martini bar and a silent auction, which took place Saturday night at the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington.

By the end of the reunion and after expenses, the former students raised $2,000 for the Grier Hansen Scholarship Fund that Lee High School established shortly after Mr. Hansen’s death. Each year, the fund gives one deserving student $1,000 toward college.

“I had hoped to raise enough funds to send students to school for three or four years,” said Miss Crisci, adding that she wants to do more philanthropic work in honor of Mr. Hansen.

Mr. Hansen’s mother, Jeanne, who was a teacher at Lee High, retired shortly after her son’s death. School officials could not be reached for comment.

“Our class motto was: ‘By our actions we will be remembered,’” Miss Crisci said. “This is something I hope to do again next year.”

During the reunion, the former students laughed and cried as they watched a 15-minute video tribute to Mr. Hansen, who was remembered as someone who could make those around him laugh.

Those who attended the reunion also paid tribute to four other classmates who died since graduation. Two classmates died in accidental falls, one in a car accident and one by drowning, Miss Crisci said.

“We remember[ed] the other four with a toast,” Miss Crisci said.

Miss Crisci plans to make the Martini Project an ongoing campaign. She said she plans to hold the same fund-raiser over Columbus Day weekend next year, only it will not be as a class reunion.

“Whoever heard of an 11-year reunion?” she said with a laugh.

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