Gone but never forgotten Friends rally to remember, honor 2013 EHS graduate Dakota Schnettler
STAFF REPORT The Ephrata Review
, Staff Writer
On Aug. 5, Ephrata graduate Dakota Schnettler was severely injured in a car accident in the 100 block of Mt. Airy Road in Clay Township. On Aug. 9, he lost his life due to those injuries.
Dakota was an accomplished taekwon-do martial artist, Volkwagen enthusiast and a member of the school’s ice hockey team. He could talk for hours about cars and always had a smile on his face.
After losing their best friend, fellow 2013 EHS grads Bob Shimko and Nick Tompkins made it their goal this past weekend to honor and remember Dakota and to help the Schnettler family by organizing rallies, a car show and fundraisers.
At this point, the accident is still under investigation.
“It’s going to be an arduous process,” Regional Police Chief David Steffen said Tuesday afternoon. “We’re not going to rush this. I can tell you that no stone is being left unturned.”
Shimko and Tompkins became proactive after losing Dakota, as a way to keep his memory alive and to help support a grieving family through a trying time. The boys organized a car show and a prayer vigil to remember their friend and help the Schnettlers, a family both Shimko and Tompkins admire.
“His dad is just a great guy,” said Shimko, who has been friends with Dakota since the boys met while skateboarding about six years ago.
Tompkins, who has been friends with Dakota since elementary school, shared the same passion for Volkwagens. On Sunday, Tompkins attended the Vag Fair in York – a car show for Volkwagen and Audi enthusiasts. He attached a Mark 3 Jetta fender to his GTI and had everyone at Dakota’s prayer vigil sign it.
On Sunday, Tompkins packed up a canopy, signs, and a donation bucket and headed to the York Fairgrounds. Through the support of other Volkwagen and Audi lovers, he was able to raise $630.18.
“I cruised up to York with a bunch of people and we were walking through the parking lot, asking for donations,” said Tompkins. “Strangers gave donations – every cent and piece of lose change they were willing to give.”
“It’s like a family,” he continued. “We all care for each other. If anything happens, we help out. Everyone was sorry for our loss and gave whatever they could afford.”
Even Tompkins’ 10-year-old brother, Kyle Cramer, pitched in and donated his summer earnings from mowing his grandparents’ lawn.
“His little brother gave all his hard-earned mowing money from all summer and that just melted my heart,” said Michelle Simmons, Tompkins’ aunt.
Shimko organized a car show at Roland Park in Akron from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tompkins took his donations and met Shimko at the park, where friends, family and fellow students honored and remembered Dakota.
Shimko began raising money for the Schnettlers during last week’s Lanco Speedway sprint car race that he regularly attends. The Roland Park car meet brought in roughly $1,400, giving the boys a grand total of $2,195.18. The donations were used to help defray funeral and hospital costs.
On Sunday, sprint cars did burn outs in Dakota’s honor and friends and family said a prayer. Finally, the cars formed a “V,” which Dakota’s parents drove through.
Both boys were surprised how much money was raised for the Schnettlers and were able to find comfort and support in the wake of this tragic loss.
“Sunday helped and it showed that a lot of people cared about him,” said Shimko. “When you find your friends that really support you and hang out with them, it makes it better. Everyone seems to be doing better.”
“He was one of my best friends,” added Tompkins. “Life is short. Don’t forget anybody along your way. He was always willing to help out anyone. We talked for hours about cars,” Tompkins lamented.
“He was a tough kid,” added Shimko. “And you could never catch him without a smile on his face.”
Schnettler used that toughness this past year, when he joined the ice hockey team at Ephrata for the first time. While he understood his limitations, said Ephrata Coach Kevin Davis, Schnettler found a way to contribute to a team that went on to reach the semifinals in the CPIHL playoffs.
“He courageously came out for his senior season,” Davis said. “I mean, he lacked experience, but you know what, the one thing that I really liked about him was he was so team supportive. He understood that he may not get as much ice time as the other guys, but he never once complained about it. He just was behind the team the whole way. He was just a team player.”
As a left winger, Schnettler was a work in progress.
“He was still learning,” Davis said. “He knew how to skate, somewhat, and he knew how to shoot. He knew what to do when he was out there…good enough to help us when needed. He didn’t have very much experience at hockey. I think it was a challenge for him, and from what I understand he was a kid who just kind of really accepted challenges. He challenged himself to play hockey, and he came out and tried.”
“He was a champion taekwon-do artist, and taekwon-do and hockey don’t really go together,” Davis continued. “I always had that fear that he was going to go out and get involved in a fight, but he never did. He played the game, and every time he hit the ice he tried as hard as he could. I was never dissatisfied with him, and I don’t think he was ever dissatisfied with himself.”
Luis Mejia has known Schnettler since he was six years old, when the then-youngster joined his taekwon-do academy in Ephrata. Schnettler stayed with Mejia when he moved his academy to Lititz, and the student quickly rose through the ranks, eventually winning a bronze medal at the ITF World Championships in New Zealand in 2011.
“That was Dakota’s first time (competing at the world championships), and no one is supposed to do that well on their first time,” Mejia said. “He did awesome, so I was totally sure he was going to win world championships in Spain the next time around. And it wasn’t just from me. Every instructor who saw Dakota training and practicing and competing in tournaments used to say, ‘that kid will be a future world champion.’
“He was just really talented, and like in any sport you need to have a good body for that sport…Well, Dakota definitely had the perfect body for taekwon-do.”
The world championship competition in Spain, incidentally, will happen in the next two months. Mejia, who said he is “heartbroken” over Schnettler’s death, said his student got more out of life than most, even if it was so short.
“It’s hard for so many of us here,” Mejia said. “But I would like to say I feel really happy for Dakota because I think he had a wonderful life. This kid experienced so many things. He had the opportunity to go to another country and represent the United States. I mean, how many of us don’t even go outside of the United States, ever? He was really good at what he was doing. My school is around 100-120 students, and all of these kids looked up to him. They wanted to be like him. He was like a hero here. I know Dakota, the 18 years he spent here, he had a really good time and definitely got the most out of them.”
Donations to the family to help with funeral and hospital costs can be sent to The Schnettler Family, 2280 E. Main St., Ephrata, PA 17522. Checks can be made out to Madeline Schnettler. Both Shimko and Tompkins plan on designing and selling static car stickers in the near future to also help raise money for the family.
Dakota “Cody” Stephan Schnettler, 18, of Ephrata, passed away Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, at Lancaster General Hospital.
He was born in Lancaster to Mark S. and Madeline C. (Lash) Schnettler.
Cody was a 2013 graduate of Ephrata High School where he was a member of the ice hockey team. He was a world champion in taekwon-do attaining a black belt. He especially enjoyed fishing and import cars. Cody was baptized in the Christian faith. Cody had been employed by the Ephrata K Mart.
In addition to his parents, he is survived by a sister: Hannah C. Schnettler at home; paternal grandmother: Maureen M. Schnettler of Coram, N.Y.; maternal grandfather: Harold S. Lash Jr. of Ephrata; maternal grandmother: Bonnie L. Lash of Ephrata; maternal great grandmother: Mary Jane Lash of Ephrata and girlfriend: Tiffany Reider of Ephrata.
He was preceded in death by his paternal grandfather, Joseph F. Schnettler and maternal great grandfather, Harold S. Lash.
A visitation will be held on Wednesday, August 14, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 7:30 p.m., at the Ephrata Community Church, 70 Clay School Rd., Ephrata, followed by a celebration of Cody’s life at 7:30 p.m., with Pastor Kevin Eshleman officiating. Interment will be private at the convenience of the family.
Memorial contributions in Cody’s memory may be made to Advantage Taekwon-Do, 732 Creekside Lane Lititz, PA 17543.
Arrangements by Stradling Funeral Homes, Inc., Akron/Ephrata. Online condolences can be given at stradlingfuneralhome.com.
More SCHNETTLER, page A16