CUMMING, Ga. (AP) — Each of Tarik Kindell’s family members and friends agree that he was an incredibly giving person — in more ways than one.
Not only was he funny and charismatic, always knowing exactly what to say to make someone smile. He was also there for his close friends and even strangers when they most needed help.
His mother, Diane Davis, said it was simply in his nature. The two of them spoke often about his dreams of opening up his own nonprofit to help other students and kids in communities across the world.
“It first started out as a literacy foundation,” Diane said. “He liked to read a lot, so he wanted kids to love reading. He thought reading could open up so many opportunities for kids to explore the world in their imagination.”
While he still bounced ideas off his mom for the nonprofit, Tarik decided to put off the dream until after college. He began studying engineering at Kennesaw State University, and he knew he would have more time after graduation to start a successful organization.
But right as he wrapped up his senior year, Tarik was struck by a wrong-way driver while heading home on Ga. 400 on the night of May 30. He and the other driver both died in the wreck.
This September, Diane brought together close family and friends from all over to celebrate what would have been Tarik’s 23rd birthday, and together, decided they wanted to carry out his dream. That was when they established the Tarik I. Kindell Scholarship Fund.
“He was my only child, and I will never, ever get an opportunity to watch him walk down the aisle …. I will never get an opportunity to see that,” Diane said. “I will never get an opportunity to have a grandchild. It’s very painful, but this (foundation) was his wish.”
Diane already officially launched the scholarship fund in honor of Kindell and his life. She said donations brought into the fund will be awarded to schools to help support different programs, including those involving literacy and writing for young kids.
Although she and her family have not decided on a school yet, Davis said they plan to award the first scholarship in Tarik’s name next fall.
She hopes the scholarship fund can grow into something much larger one day, making an impact on many in the community in the same way Tarik made an impact in his lifetime.
‘AN EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCE’
Diane said Tarik began volunteering in the community when he was 7 years old as a junior leader at the YMCA. Eventually, he took over as vice president of the leadership club, which consisted of 100-125 kids.
Through that program, he coached soccer teams and refereed basketball games for the younger kids, and he took part in fundraisers to help raise money to fund scholarships for those who couldn’t otherwise afford YMCA summer camps.
That work eventually led him to his first mission trip to Costa Rica.
Along with a group of other students from the YMCA, he was able to travel there and help organize a summer camp for underprivileged kids.
Diane said the trip “was an eye-opening experience for him,” as he recognized how much he loved not only helping others in outside communities, but also getting to know them and learning more about their cultures.
So when one of his childhood friends, Nathan Thrower, invited him on a mission trip to Nicaragua through Comunidad Connect, he couldn’t refuse the offer.
Nathan said Comunidad Connect volunteers work to give communities in both Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic the tools they need to bring citizens together. According to the nonprofit’s website, they create programs that “improve community health, empower youth through sports and support sustainable community development.”
After going on these trips, Tarik knew that he wanted to continue to help as many people as he could both in Forsyth County and across the world.
“I think that’s what Tarik enjoyed about it was being able to go and help people and just do more for others,” Nathan said.
LOSING A DANCE PARTNER
But even outside of his volunteer work, Davis said the impact he had on others’ lives was, and still is, very clear.
Askia Davis, Tarik’s uncle, remembers being astounded by the number of people coming out to give their condolences and share stories of their own time with Tarik in the days following the accident.
He said around 60 students from KSU, all from different backgrounds, came to visit Diane all at once one day.
“And they were all talking about the impact that Tarik had on their lives,” Askia said. “The charisma that he had. And to see young people, 20 and 21 years old, talk about another 22-year-old with such admiration was really touching.”
After a while of talking, laughing and crying, the students played a song, “LA Girls” by Charlie Puth. Everyone knew it was Diane and Tarik’s song because whenever it played, they were the first ones to the dance floor, showing off their moves as a mother and son duo.
That day, each of them danced for Tarik, spending that moment with Diane.
For Askia, the gesture showed just how much Tarik meant to each of the kids there.
“He lived a full life in 22 years,” Askia said. “I mean, he reached a level of evolution in terms of caring for others that a lot of people don’t reach in 60 or 70 or 80 years. And so he was very impressive that way.”
GAINING A BROTHER
From the time they first met in elementary school, Nathan said he felt that same level of caring from Tarik. Although they weren’t immediately close, he said he somehow knew he could rely on him for anything — even if he didn’t always answer his phone calls.
Over time, they grew closer and closer, and Tarik continued to stand by his side.
That bond and support meant everything to Nathan when he and his family lost his younger brother to Leukemia in 2014.
“Just having Tarik there was the biggest help in the world,” Nathan said. “I don’t know how I could have gone through any of that (without him). So even though I lost a brother, I gained another one.”
He said some of his favorite memories of Tarik are the days they simply got to spend time together talking or playing games and hanging out. But one that has stood out to him recently was the day of his wedding.
During the reception, they played plenty of Spanish music because Nathan’s wife is from Nicaragua, and he said Tarik didn’t really know how to dance to it. Even so, the two hit the dance floor together.
“In my limited knowledge of how to (do the) salsa or bachata, I was trying to show him how to do it and we were dancing together,” Nathan said. “It was the first time we had done anything like that, and it just felt natural for some reason.”
Now, Nathan said he is applying for medical school and hopes to soon become a physician. Through that work, he wants to take with him all of the philanthropic ideas Tarik shared with him.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
As one of Tarik’s closest friends, Nathan also plans to help Diane continue the scholarship fund in his honor.
Aside from awarding scholarships to area schools, they are also collecting donations for each of the community organizations who helped to support Tarik and his endeavors throughout his life. Through the website, www.tarikikindellscholarshipfund.com, they are collecting donations for Comunidad Connect, the YMCA, KSU and Abyssinian Baptist Church, which has organized its own scholarship fund in Tarik’s name.
Funds going to the YMCA and Comunidad Connect will help to send other students on mission trips to give them the same experience that Tarik had during his years with the organizations.
Anyone can donate to any of the five organizations or scholarship funds through the website. Family and friends asked that anyone who donates make sure to note the donation is in honor of Tarik Irving Kindell and his life.
“I couldn’t have raised a young man like Tarik without having the support of the community and family and friends to guide him, to talk to him, to just lead by example,” Diane said. “I think that it’s important for everyone …. you need foundations like the YMCA, Comunidad, any other organization. We need those organizations to keep our kids active and involved in the community because it’s important that we all play our part in society.”