Wednesday was a day of therapy.
It's was impossible for the buckets of soap and water to wash away the sorrow. Nor could the brushes and sponges scrub away the pain, but for a few hours Wednesday afternoon in the parking lot of the Dade City Checkers, current and former members of the Pasco High student body were able to smile and laugh again.
The group of several dozen students came together to participate in a benefit car wash to raise funds for the family of former Pasco High football player Dan Brown. The 19-year-old was killed in an all-terrain vehicle accident Saturday night in Hernando County. The crash also claimed the life of former Pasco cross country runner Steven Villarreal, 18. The ATV, driven by Villarreal, slammed into the back of a sport utility vehicle, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Brown, who was on the back of the ATV, was pronounced dead at the scene, and Villarreal died at Pasco Regional Medical Center.
Brown, who graduated in May, would have left for Defiance, Ohio, to begin his football career at Defiance College. Instead, that is the day of his funeral service.
Sage Stephens, who plays football and baseball for Pasco High, said he had a bad feeling just before going to bed Saturday night. Hours later, at 4 a.m., he woke up.
"For some reason I woke up and checked my phone," said Stephens, who with Nick Wilson helped coordinate the car wash. "I had 26 missed calls, six text messages and three voice messages. I read the first (text) message and it said, 'Call me when you wake up.'"
Stephens called former Pasco baseball payer Chris Dious and found out that his good friend "Turbo" was gone.
"He was a brother to everyone," Stephens said. "I was in shock because he was an ironman to me. Turbo's never complained about anything. If he had a hurt ankle, he'd play through it. For some reason I kept thinking, 'He's going to walk through the door. He's OK.'"
Stephens immediately called his mother.
"I couldn't believe it happened," Wilson said. "I was like, 'No way.' And then I just started calling everybody."
Despite the intensity of the heat Wednesday, Wilson wasn't going to let that deter the group from its goal.
When asked how long they would remain in the parking lot washing cars, he smiled and said: "Until the cars stop coming."
Chase Sellers, who also helped put together the car wash, was pleased by how many people came to help.
"He had no enemies, everyone liked him," Sellers said. "All he did was smile. Every time you saw him, he was smiling. It's a sad thing to see him go, but it's a good thing we're out here making money for him."
On a stretch of grass lining the parking lot, Pasco football coach Tom McHugh talked to parents and others in attendance. He couldn't help but view the day's event as therapeutic.
"It's a mournful situation, and the kids mourn it, and I think part of the mourning is when people that you love get together and you talk about it," McHugh said. "They want to tell stories, talk about (Dan), talk to each other. I think even if you're not actually speaking about it, to actually vent helps.