Liz Mays Harris, Moretown, endured something no parent ever should -- the loss of her 16-year-old daughter, Mary Harris, in October 2016 when a wrong-way driver on I-89 struck the car Mary was in, killing her, along with Cyrus Zschau, 16, of Moretown; Eli Brookens, 16, of Waterbury; Janie Chase Cozzi, 15, of Fayston; and Liam Hale, 16, of Fayston. “The impact in the community is huge and it still is, it always will be,” Liz said.
Shortly after the teenagers’ deaths, Liz posted the hashtag #lovelikemary on social media and “It just kind of took off.” A family friend made red #lovelikemary stickers that can be found around the community. To her mother, love like Mary means, “To be kind.” Liz Harris noted that, it wasn’t just her daughter that the community lost that night and other families have created movements and causes to commemorate their children, as well, including #playlikejanie and “lift” for Cyrus.
Mary Harris was captain of Harwood’s varsity girls’ soccer team which honored her by beginning an annual youth soccer tournament known as “Mary Harris Day.”
“Mary was 6-feet tall,” her mother said. “She was very sweet, very kind. She was friends with almost everybody. She always smiled, said hi. She was definitely a presence wherever she went, always smiley, always happy, definitely a larger-than-life kind of character. If you had a bad day or you missed a goal or didn’t play well, she was there to pick you up. She was always somebody to make anybody feel better.”
Mary also loved participating with her family in the annual fat ski-a-thon fundraiser for the High Fives Foundation at Sugarbush, which typically falls around her birthday on February 28. “It’s a hard week,” Liz said. “The ski-a-thon was always a really big part of our life.”
The annual fundraiser supports the High Fives Foundation, a national nonprofit founded by Harris family friend Roy Tuscany that, according to its website, “focuses on preventing life-changing injuries and provides resources and hope if they happen.” The website says, “Since 2009, High Fives has helped countless injured athletes and veterans get back to doing what they love. The foundation aims to be the leader of education and recovery of life-altering injuries in outdoor action sports.”
Mary and her family skied in the event on her sweet 16th birthday. The following year, her family and friends created the “love like Mary” team. “We always skied it, we always raised money,” Liz said. “Our team has been keeping her really present that day. Mary really loved the ski-a-thon. It was a day to be around people who were less fortunate than her and she saw that. That first year [without Mary] was extremely hard to be a part of but at the same time honorable to be a part of. She had so much passion for that, so it seemed perfect to create the love like Mary team and ski for her.”
Friends and family continue to raise funds for High Fives in Mary’s honor each year. Last year, on what would have been Mary’s 21st birthday, the team handed out 21 cupcakes and balloons to children (her jersey number was also 21). This year, the love like Mary team aimed to raise $22,000 in honor of her 22nd birthday. They raised $25,500. “For me, it’s very big. It’s a huge impact,” her mother said.
“I think the message isn’t just love like Mary, I think it’s ‘love.’ Take care of each other, take care of people … You have to be able to understand that people are hurting and you need to be kind to them. I think the message is to be good to yourself, and be good to others, and if you can be good to yourself, you can be good to others. We’re humans and we need to care for each other.”