There is sports heroism and then there is human kindness heroism. Jared Foster Smith knows about both.
The 2014 R.S. Central graduate who now works for Lockheed Martin, spent a good portion of this past spring and summer memorializing his dad with a backpack drive for kids in Rutherford, Cleveland and Cherokee counties.
His dad was Victor Thomas Smith, a stand out customer service specialist for Forest City Honda.
"It has always been important to both Victor and Jared to give back to the community," Francis Foster Smith, Jared's mom, said of the effort to gather backpacks filled with school supplies.
Jared hopes to make the effort an annual tribute to his late father.
Because filling backpacks for community youngster was just the kind of thing his father always did.
"I remember a little girl in our church who he was always buying things for, giving her birthday cards," Jared said. "I didn't understand it as a kid, but when I got older, I saw it was the right thing to do. You don't just take care of your kids. They were all his kids."
Nearly 90 backpacks were collected for children in Rutherford and Cleveland Counties and dozens more in Cherokee County, SC where Victor went to church at Bethesda Presbyterian.
Jared said his mother, Frances Foster Smith, has been a critical player in the success of the drive. "It's like a business venture," he said. "You need a partner who will not bash your ideas, but help you define your ideas and make them a success. She is always working behind the scenes, making connections for me, backing me up."
"Success," is a word that rings true for the mechanical engineer who is now loving his work in Fort Worth, Texas for Lockheed Martin. As a youngster he was part of Duke University's Talent Identification Program or TIP, which exposed him not only to the resources at Duke, but "several Ivy League schools," according to his mom.
Before earning his mechanical engineering degree from N.C. A&T, he did an internship with NASA and is now employed in his field.
"All that happened before my dad died and I was so glad he got to see it. It really made him proud. He was always coming behind me, encouraging me," he said.
Jared lettered in football and track and field while at R.S. Central.
"My dad was always there for me, but he was there for other kids too. We saw the Spike Lee movie, Do The Right Thing, and ever since that has been an important word in our family," Jared said.
Collection points for the backpack drive included Forest City Honda, Smoov Kutz and Blazin' Kutz Barbershop. Alums of both Webb University, Victor's alma mater, and A&T, where Jared graduated, contributed to the backpack drive as did many friends of the businesses listed here. Help also came from a number of local medical offices and members of Omega Sigma Omega chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
Jared also gave a shout out to his fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Pate and his little league football coach, June Hamilton. He laughed to remember having to run a few extra laps for Coach Hamilton, because he had gotten in trouble. "He was all about the discipline," he said.
Both Jared and his mom also mentioned his encouragement to younger kids to go to college. He recently left an internship in North Charleston to support a local college fair.
His belief in the importance of making connections came through. "It's important to show younger people how this gets done. Again it comes back to doing the right thing."