Many friends in Abbott Garn’s life are searching for ways to honor his memory.
Nathan Fairchild, a neighbor to the Garn family, described the 15-year-old Columbus East sophomore as his best friend since they both attended Central Middle School, where the two met in the school cafeteria. Garn died late Saturday after being struck by a vehicle in Columbus.
Describing their first meeting, Fairchild said he saw Garn sitting alone and went over to talk to him — and the two just hit it off from there, he said.
Fairchild said he will remember the times he spent with Garn at each other’s houses, playing Xbox, exploring nearby woods, summer campfires with friends and boating on Lake Monroe.
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“You know, I could come to him with anything,” Fairchild said. “There was nothing I was ashamed to tell him. He’d help me out and give me advice. He kept me humble. He was sort of my rock.”
After Fairchild learned Garn had died, he went to a friend’s house where Garn’s friends had gathered in grief and just sat there, he said.
“We cried for hours. We watched the sun rise, and then we went to breakfast and talked it out,” he said.
Then he went home to change into formal clothes and went to Garn’s house to express his condolences.
Fairchild said Garn’s father embraced him as he entered the house and squeezed him as tightly as he could.
“Abbott’s house became a sanctuary for people who knew him,” said Fairchild, a neighbor of the Garns who transferred from Columbus East to South Decatur High School in Greensburg. “It’s been tough, but there’s been lots of love.”
Fairchild received multiple phone calls Sunday morning about Garn’s death and at first reacted with disbelief, he said. Afterward, he said he began thinking about how he could honor Garn’s life and what would mean the most to his friend as a memorial.
And the answer was Garn’s love for the music of Chance the Rapper (Chancellor Johnathan Bennett), a hip-hop artist from Chicago who this month won three Grammy Awards.
He began an effort Monday to encourage the hip-hop artist to contact Garn’s friends through the hashtag #ChanceforAbbott.
“Abbott never got to see him in concert, and we want Chance to celebrate his life with us since he listened to him all of the time,” said Olivia Fuel, an East student involved in the effort.
Fairchild said he’s not really into Chance the Rapper’s music, but listened to it often as it was Garn’s favorite.
“One of the things he (Garn) loved was music, and every other song was Chance the Rapper,” Fairchild said.
The hip-hop artist was on the playlist when Garn was traveling to school and on his way home, his friend said.
“This is just about getting Chance the Rapper’s attention,” Fairchild said of the social-media campaign. “I’m not looking for him to come out and give a concert or anything extreme. We’re just hoping for some word of condolence about Abbott.”
Fairchild began the social media campaign by having a few friends tweet messages with the hashtag #ChanceforAbbott. From there, friends began retweeting. The friends also used Instagram and Snapchat and so far estimate more than 1,000 people have seen one of the messages, with more receiving them and reposting them as the hours go by.
“We hope he (Chance) notices,” Fuel said. “People we don’t even know are sharing. We have friends direct-messaging or private-messaging him (Chance) and telling the rapper how Abbott made a difference in their life.”
In addition to social media, Fairchild also has called Chance the Rapper’s booking agent and public relations manager and emailed his website, hoping for a response.
“With this whole thing, even if we don’t hear back from Chance, with him saying anything, it’s the fact that Abbott inspired more than 1,000 people to put this out there over the course of a couple days,” Fairchild said.
As a tribute, Fairchild said he and some of Garn’s other friends are thinking of restoring a Volkswagen van stored in the Garn garage that the teen and his father had planned to retrofit. They are thinking of making it a senior project, and then taking a senior trip in it in Garn’s honor.
If Chance the Rapper would call, or send a message, Fairchild said it would be a way to grow Garn’s legacy through him.
“They could hear and see how Abbott affected the world — a celebrity sending condolences. It could make people feel better,” he said.
“We want to celebrate Abbott’s life, the life he had here with us,” Fuel said.
If you would like to help the social media effort to contact Chance the Rapper about condolences for Abbott Garn, use the hashtag #ChanceforAbbott and send a message to your friends, encouraging them to send it to their friends. The hope is that one of the messages will reach Chance the Rapper and he will respond with a message about Abbott.