Caraleigh Helton, a freshman at Science Hill High School, died unexpectedly last year about a week before Christmas Day.

Caraleigh’s obituary said she was a straight A+ student and an all-around athlete, playing JV soccer and competing on the high school swim team. She loved animals, wakeboarding on the lake and traveling.

To honor Helton’s memory and show students at Science Hill the importance of service, members of the Science Hill Fellowship of Christian Athletes donated gifts to the Haven of Mercy homeless shelter on Tuesday. They were joined by Caraleigh’s parents, David and Jessica.

“Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something,” said Deb Yobst, a parent who helped organize the donation, “and that’s what we’re here today for.”

Yobst was also memorializing her brother, Bob, who died after struggling with homelessness.

“I have a soft spot in my heart for a place that (offers) as their motto says, ‘A hand up, not a hand out,’” Yobst said about the Haven. “They really help people get back on their feet so that’s sort of what propelled it in the first place.”

Yobst said organizers saw tremendous support from the Science Hill FCA and Caraleigh’s athletic programs, including the soccer and swim teams and friends of the Helton family.

“I just think there’s no greater gift at the holidays ... but to help somebody else out,” Yobst said. “It’s just a fantastic feeling.”

How does it feel to see students step up to help those in need?

“It’s the greatest gift I could get on Christmas,” Yobst said. “... I think it’s fantastic, and in this world we’re living in where everything has recently been so negative, negative, negative, it’s really so good to see there’s a lot of positive going on.”

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David Floyd covers Johnson City government, Johnson City schools and Ballad Health for the Johnson City Press. He grew up in East Tennessee and graduated from ETSU, where he was the executive editor of the school paper.

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