Aaron loved Kings Meadows High so much, and I'm always happy to go up there. I was waiting for him to ask me if I could come and take photos for them (as I often take photos at the school) but instead he said 'we were wondering how you would feel about us naming it the Aaron King Memorial Oval?'.
I was blown away and felt so honored that they would want to do something so special. Since it's now been over four years since Aaron passed away, there are no students at the school who know him anymore. To know that the school still want to remember him and want him to continue to be a part of the school, means so much. It was lovely when the put up a memorial plaque in the school gym, so I didn't expect at all that anything like this would happen.
Work was so lovely in letting me work half a day, so that I could go along to the reopening. I asked the boys who wanted to come along with me, and straight away Kobe said that he would. Harri started stressing out and said he didn't want to miss 'lunch time' at school and then Kobe said 'is it more important to have lunch time or to go to something special Harri!?', which made me laugh.
When I asked Jay if he wanted to come he said he had English and didn't want to miss it. Kobe cracked us up as he said 'but you already speak English Jay! It's not important to go if you already know how to speak it! Hang on! We do speak English don't we!?'.
As the day got closer, Harri started to stress about whether he should come along or not. I told him that it's not every day that you get to do something so special to remember your Dad and he said he would come. I think the bribery of going to Maccas afterwards sealed the deal for him :)
After all the talk from Kobe of trying to convince his brothers to come along, he then realised it was 'hot food day' at school and burst into tears when he realised he would be missing out! I convinced him that it would be better to go along and he also thought that getting Maccas afterwards was a pretty good deal.
The weather hasn't been too bad yet, but today it was absolutely freezing all day. It was the first day when there was ice on the car when I left for work, and it was about 8 degrees celcius when I picked up the boys to go along to the reopening.
Mum stayed the night before and came along with us, and Aaron's Dad and step Mum Carrol also met us there, as well as my cousin Tim and his wife Helene. The reopening was held out on the oval and all the firsts sports teams from school stood along the side as the speeches were given.
The principal and others from the school talked about the redevelopment of the oval and how it affected them the past year, and how it will benefit them now. The mayor also spoke.
Aaron's really good friend and past colleague Kristy then spoke about Aaron and the impact that he had on Kings Meadows High School. I was fighting back the tears the whole time, as her speech described Aaron and his passion for the school, the students and sport so well. I loved that you got a sense of his personality as that's what I hope the current students to know about him.
We often ask our students what they are passionate about and where they find inspiration. It's a difficult question for any one to answer, young or old. 12 years ago, I was lucky enough to meet a man who was an inspiration, not just to myself but to his students and all who knew him. A man who was inspired by love and found his own inspiration in the exact same place.
Aaron King was a great man. A passionate teacher, sports coach and grade leader but more importantly a role model. Passionate about family, education and his faith, he educated a generation of kids with the underlying value of respect. The lessons he taught, changed lives, shaped futures and moulded an era. His influence so strong that even today, past students will stop me in the street just to talk about their mate Kingy.
But it was Aaron's love of sport that most remember him for. This was evident to anyone who met him...mainly due to the fact he was more likely than not, wearing a hawthorn tie, badge, shirt, scarf or Guernsey or all of the above. Alternatively, American football, baseball or basketball would also feature...along with many, many styles of converse sneakers. One pair were bought with one thing in mind and with a lace change and the right socks, became the perfect pair of hawthorn sneakers. Gosh he loved the Hawks. He religiously collected every article about them from multiple newspapers, watched every single game, gained a job with the club and I'm sure a lot of staff still remember the year he wore his Guernsey for his school photo.
And then there was Tamar. A man of style, Aaron's dedication to his beloved house Tamar was also marred with his fashionable creations of Tamar t-shirts for athletics carnivals. A trip to Rivers or Kmart for a plain t-shirt and home to print transfers and create a t-shirt that made reference to one of his favourite tv shows, all too old for any kids to recognise. One favourite read "I pity the fool that don't support Tamar". He loved Tamar so much so he'd be along side the kids at every sports event. He'd provide encouragement, jokes and healthy competition at every opportunity.
There were also the countless footy trips to Melbourne. It didn't get much better than this for Aaron. A couple of days with (ironically) no chaperone meant - 7 Eleven creaming soda slurpys, Big Macs, Oreos, Pepsi Max, Smiths originals & Krispy Kremes - for a man who didn't drink he was in serious need of detox on his return. That topped with AFL selfies, the MCG, DFOs, games arcades and the students he adored - he was in his absolute element.
I can't forget to mention the - multiple footy tipping leagues he was in, fundraisers, coaching basketball, walkathons, playing down ball, basketball, football and cricket at lunch time, I could go on! Sport was such a huge part of his life. Cricket was always a big talking point amongst the staff and students here. With his devotion to the English cricket team being a little too unAustralian for most to bare. It sure rustled some feathers around the place during the ashes test.
Aaron loved all sporting endeavours at Kings Meadows High School, but it was his footy teams that gave him the greatest joy. There was nothing he wouldn't do for those boys, even if it meant a meat pie before every game for luck...too scared not to, just in case. Footy season was hard on him - battling the Hawks good form and his own teams too, was not easy. He spent most free time with his feet on his desk and whiteboard on his lap - organising his team, working on his game plan but mainly making sure it was all done fairly.
We'd always joke that the reason he put his hand up to be on the time table committee was so that he was assured of his footy team. The love was mutual between him and his footy boys and I know they still visit him regularly. I wish that Aaron was here to see the amazing redevelopment of this oval. I'm sure he would've snuck on before the fences were down just so he was the first one to try it out. There really is no better way to pay tribute to his memory than this and fitting that his plaque reads: in memory of Aaron King - our cherished colleague, teacher and friend. May his memory live on in the sport played on this ground.
To all who knew him, to all who know of him. Today we stand together and honour a truly great man, an inspirational teacher, a sport loving larrikin who changed every life that crossed his path.
Aaron was the heart of KMHS and we were left broken when he left us. But by remembering him and placing this memorial here today, the heart of Kings Meadows High School has been restored.
A high five from the mayor for Kobe :)
The senior boys footy team then played their first game on the new oval against Riverside High School. Aaron would've loved to have been the coach out there today with the boys. If only he were here to do it
I couldn't wait to get to Maccas to have a hot chocolate. My hands are still frozen!