Taking 'Action for Alex'
Honoring a fallen friend by helping others
By Dave Myers
Southwest Kansas Catholic
KINSLEY — Of this you can be sure: Alex Gleason is smiling down from Heaven.
From June 13-15, dozens of people joined to celebrate the memory of this young man by helping others — a fitting way to honor Gleason, who died two years ago on July 20, and who “always had a smile on his face.”
“Alex was always happy; he was always smiling,” said Caitlin Herrmann, who, with her father, John, started “Action for Alex” last year. Alex was a year ahead of Caitlin at Kinsley High School.
“Gosh, he was one of the nicest people I knew. He never had a mean thing to say about anyone.”
Gleason died on July 20, 2016. He was 18 years old.
“I was at ‘Prayer and Action’ when I heard about Alex’s death,” Caitlin said.
“Prayer and Action” is a diocesan program for young adults which has them going to the homes of people in need where they beautify the house and property, and help in other unexpected ways.
“That’s where I got the idea for ‘Action for Alex,’” she explained. Unlike “Prayer and Action,” which is diocesan wide, “Action for Alex” is focused in the Kinsley community where Alex was reared.
It is a celebration of the life of one of their own by focusing efforts on the community of which he was a part.
“We worked on one house near St. Nicholas Church,” Caitlin said of the 27 youth volunteers and nearly as many adults. “We painted it, did yard work, took down trees. A family donated a swing and a table set. Another person donated flowers. It looks really nice.”
The homeowner wasn’t content to sit back and watch, noted adult volunteer, Kayla Gleason, whose daughter accompanied Alex to his junior prom.
“She came out and asked what she could do,” Kayla said of the homeowner. “She helped us to spray paint. Her grandchildren came out and helped, too.
“Alex was very polite, a very nice kid. His whole family is nice.”
When work on the house was completed, the volunteers took their time and talent to the Palace Theater in Kinsley, a jewel on the prairie of southwest Kansas.
Called “...one of the finest examples of shoebox theater design,” the historic theater was constructed in 1917 and still houses original hand-painted fire curtains. One of two such theaters known to exist, the structure is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We repainted the theater,” Caitlin said. “Because it’s a historic site, we had to match the original color. Jimmy Heinz built a new candy counter. We have a lot of people in town who volunteered to work. I think’s that’s cool.”
The theater shows movies each Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For the current schedule, visit facebook.com/KinsleyPalaceTheatre/.
PRIDE, a Kinsley organization designed to support community projects, donated food, the wood for the theater, as well as paint for the house and glass for the candy counter. Sherwin Williams was “very generous” in the donation of paint. One of the dinners for the volunteers was provided by the Ladies League, while the Knights of Columbus hosted the second night’s dinner. Community volunteers also brought a kiddie-pool/slip-‘n-slide game, which must have felt tremendous after a hot day at work.
“Lots of people gave us snacks,” Caitlin said. “The community really helped out and was real supportive. They wanted to see it happen.”
Martin Gleason, Alex’s father, took part in the work effort as well.
“It was unbelievable what the kids got done in three days; it was truly amazing. We were really happy with the results.”
A 2016 graduate of Kinsley High School, Alex was a member of the Trenton Workers 4-H Club and the Offerle Fire Department. He was working on earning his private pilot’s license at the time of his death.
“We were very, very proud of him,” Martin said. Alex is also survived by his mother, Jennifer, siblings Brett and Caitlen, grandparents James and Rosanna Gleason and Doug and Saundra McGraw, and many aunts, uncles and cousins.
The event concluded with a community block party, which included a potluck dinner and a powerpoint presentation at the St. Nicholas Parish Hall, featuring the past days’ efforts.