On May 22, 2017, the world was once again brought to its knees after an attack on the most innocent of victims. The bombing in Manchester, England took the lives of twenty-two innocent and defenseless children and adults who were either attending a concert or waiting for those that were. For days and weeks after the attack, the outpouring of love and support could be found across the globe. From taxi drivers in Manchester offering free rides, to donations of time and money for those affected by the tragedy. In New York, the Empire State Building went dark as a sign of solidarity with the victims. The same thing could be found at the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the British flag could be found shining brightly from cities such as Dubai, Toronto, Tel Aviv and Berlin. But even with the grand-scale support for the victims that could be found around the world, many were still left wondering what they could do to help. For one Apex teen, the answer was clear.
Sydney McCoy is no stranger to helping those around her or going the extra mile to do what is right. As 2017’s Think Apex Top Thinker Award recipient, individual, for her dedication and service to others, Sydney has spent much of her 16 years putting others first. “She is always trying to find ways to make the world a better place,” said her mother, Hazel. “Sydney is always thinking and putting others before herself and this event hit home especially because of the children,” she said. When she heard about the bombing in Manchester, Sydney said that she connected with the concert-goers and as a music lover she identified with many that were there. “Music is such a huge part of my life,” she said. As a piano teacher to youngsters who are finding their love of music, and a part of the Raleigh Little Theater since elementary school, the thought of going to a concert to have fun and enjoy what you love the most, only to have tragedy strike was difficult for Sydney to imagine. “This is a time to go and have fun and dress up. Kids like to count down the hours, minutes and seconds until the show begins, and to think that you could come home without your friend, or you don’t make it home yourself, this is just not what you expect,” she said. Sydney was also heartbroken because of the connection she has with England. As one of ten children in the United States chosen by McDonald’s to attend the Olympics in 2012, Sydney has fond memories of the residents of England. “Everyone was so nice to all of us and we had such an amazing time there.”
Sydney knew that she wanted to do something to reach out to the victims of the bombing. What better way than to send homemade and handwritten notes of encouragement? When asked why she thought of cards as a way to reach out, she said, “A lot of people like to send stuffed animals and gifts, and we had many of those, too, but nothing can show someone you care more than something handwritten. You get to see someone’s emotion and you know they took the time to write it and show you their emotions.” There are some things you just can’t convey in a typed letter or email. Sydney pointed out that you can tell a lot about the person sending the note by the handwriting or decorations. “The cards with the perfect handwriting you know came from someone older and the ones with the stickers and pictures are from the children.” With the help of the Apex branch of Coastal Federal Credit Union, Sydney decided to gather as many notes and cards as she could and would send them to Manchester directly. Within twenty minutes of reaching out to the Hospital Community Coordinator in Manchester, she got a reply and was ready to ship. With the help of the Apex community, Sydney was able to send over 100 cards to the children in Manchester hospitals to show them love and support from thousands of miles away.
As Sydney went around town collecting cards and donations, she found that many people in our area have a connection to England and felt compelled to help. “We met a woman who had just had surgery and was unable to leave her house. We went to her home to collect some stuffed animals and cards she had, and she told us that she is from Manchester and is actually the first person in her family to move away from the area.” From family connections to stories of visits and history, “Everyone seemed to have a connection, and even if they didn’t they still really wanted to help,” she said.
Sydney is constantly trying to find ways to get involved in the community. With the help of Lowe’s Home Improvement, she was able to get the Apex Fire Department a kitchen renovation, she has been a part of the Girl’s World Expo and often does cooking demonstrations at the Apex Farmer’s Market. If she isn’t out helping or working, Sydney can probably be found in the kitchen! She has cooked with some of the most well-known chefs in our area, including Chef Walter Royal at the Angus Barn, and Master Baker and owner of La Farm Bakery, Lionel Vatinet. In addition to local celebrity chefs, Sydney has met and worked with some of the most well-known chefs in America. As a contestant of Food Network’s Rachel v. Guy Kids Cook-Off, she was able to cook alongside other young people that share her passion.
Whether it is cooking a delicious meal or sending love and support to strangers thousands of miles away, it is clear that Sydney McCoy puts her whole heart into everything she does. A young lady with a bright future ahead of her and a caring soul that will certainly shine for years to come. What a wonderful representative of Apex and all that it stands for.