The family of Calvin Ness, the 13-year-old Charlottesville City Schools student who died after being hit in the head with a baseball on May 8, is honoring his memory with a fundraiser for Buford Middle School athletics in his name.
The C-Will Fund For Buford Athletics has already raised more than $42,700 of its $100,000 goal, according to the Ness family. Calvin Ness’ parents said they hope it will help Buford students “grow athletic skills, camaraderie, sportsmanship and joy for all Buford students.”
“Adult coaches aren’t supposed to have favorite youth players, but you couldn’t help it when you coached Calvin,” said Leigh Hughes, a Charlottesville Babe Ruth League coach who began coaching Ness when he was 7 years old. “He competed the way you wanted all kids to compete. He was a wonderfully caring big brother to Mallory and Robinson, and his two siblings both play sports like Calvin, fearless and with max effort.”
When asked to describe Ness, those who knew him echoed the same words: “caring,” “mischievous” and “leader.”
“I’ve tried to make sense of this in my head and why his life mattered with his ending at 13,” said Dr. Elizabeth Korab, Calvin’s mother and the principal of Burnley-Moran Elementary School in the city. “He was such a deep thinker and understood a lot of things like what made things completely hypocritical or what made things completely challenging.”
Korab said her son taught her to learn from the perspective of children, who are “more open and looking for connection than we give them credit for.”
“Whenever he cared about someone enough, he would let that person into his heart and he would let them stay,” Abe Jaspen, a 14-year-old Buford student and one of Calvin’s best friends, said
It’s already been a tough year to be a principal, Korab said, and her son’s death is another addition to the reasons Charlottesville City Schools have to mourn.
“With the lockdowns and threats, and there have been so many of us that have lost a former student due to gun violence. When you’re in this pocket, this town can get even smaller and they’re so young. It can get depressing to feel like all this work we put in … but if you are a Black boy in Charlottesville it is a really depressing place.”
Barely a teenager, Ness had questions about high housing prices that are not sustainable in the community and class disparities that are divided by race, Korab said.
Korab said that each of her three children have taught her important lessons about being an educator, but Calvin taught her the importance of connection by “connecting with every single kid,” which is something that “adults in this community do not do.”While understanding the various plights of his peers, Calvin also knew how to make his instructors feel seen and special.
“He was the type of student where, if I said a joke that might have gone over some students’ heads, he would get a glint in his eye because he understood it and appreciated it,” said Carol Busching, who taught Ness in the first through fourth grades during her 23 years as a specialty instructor at Burley-Moran. “He was a student who always asked why, and I appreciated it. … He liked to dig into things with lots of energy, but energy in the best way.”
In baseball, Ness found a family of friends, many of whom he had played ball with since age 7, Ness’ parents wrote on the C-Will website. Jaspen was in that family of friends.
Jaspen said that his favorite thing to do was sit and talk with his best friend.
“I can just remember us sitting for multiple nights and staying late up at night and talking about life and everything going on,” Jaspen said. “We would be able to talk and then understand each other immediately.”
Jaspen said he and Ness also enjoyed visits to the batting cage along with their close friends Henry Hughes, coach Hughes’ son, Patrick Daly, Garret Wispelway and Aubrey Hill.
Jaspen’s father, Andy Jaspen, is also a Babe Ruth League coach and created a memorial for Ness at Gardner Field at Lane Park where the tragic incident occurred on May 8.
“He was keenly aware of others and could bring you to tears with the thoughtfulness of a gift or make you laugh with an insightful comment that reminded you he missed nothing,” Ness’ parents wrote on the C-Will website. “We all wish we could have seen the man he would become.”
Ness’ family will host a celebration of life for Ness at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, May 29, at the baseball field at Charlottesville High School with hot dogs and refreshments after the ceremony.