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Hastings Embodies Servant Leadership

by | May 24, 2021

Vaughn Hastings worked with the city council in Raleigh, North Carolina to have the Raleigh Jaycee Park dedicated to his friend and mentor, E. Russell “Rusty” Lurwick.
Vaughn Hastings with his mother, Jane

Vaughn Hastings, Class of 1986, learned at a young age the importance of giving back. He was raised in a very generous and loving household by his mother, Jane, who adopted him when he was a baby. Jane took on many roles throughout her career. She was a pediatric nurse, worked in the field of social work in a drug and alcohol rehab facility, and, at one point, also worked in a psychiatric facility. Throughout her life, she always worked in roles that helped lend a hand.

“She was in the business of helping people. Anytime my mom knew someone needed something they didn’t have to ask. She would leave in the middle of the night to help children and people in need. I knew what she was doing was making a difference,” said Hastings. Vaughn’s wife Kathryn added, “Jane was a single mom that always made charity a priority in their lives, even when times may have been tough.”

It was not uncommon for Vaughn’s mom to leave him with a babysitter in the middle of the night to help women who were in abusive situations involving domestic violence, or to help children who were in potentially life-threatening situations. She would also go out of her way to help children in need of food or clothing. Jane did not know how much she was shaping the life of her young son at that point but her charitable heart, compassion for others, and servant leadership left a lasting impression on her son.

Vaughn started his own giving traditions in the early ‘90s. As a young bachelor, he would host an annual Halloween party. In order to gain admission to the party, every guest was asked to bring a new toy. At first, the parties were held in Vaughn’s home but soon the number of guests started to overflow the space and Vaughn had to move the annual event to a public venue. Every toy from each of these parties was donated to Toys for Tots – with his best event collecting over 200 toys for kids in need. Vaughn aged out of Halloween parties in 2015, but his commitment to helping children in need continues. He regularly donates to coat and toy drives. In 2018, he donated $800 in gift cards to the Baptist Children’s Home to help families fostering children seeking adoption. To obtain the $800 in gift cards, Hastings earned points at the location where he donated blood platelets and turned all of his points in for gift cards. “I just kept saving my points,” Hastings said.

Vaughn also started running regular volleyball tournaments called “Spike for a Cause” in the early ‘00s. He started the tournaments because he saw the painful effects of cancer on so many of his friends. The “Spike for a Cause” annual charity event was created to benefit a charity or family in the local volleyball community that was in need, with the focus on the fight against cancer. Early on, the grassroots event raised between $3,500-$7,000, each year, benefitting breast cancer research and other forms of cancer.

However, with time, the word soon got out about the annual “Spike for a Cause” event and in 2009, the event raised over $15,000 which was donated to the Colon Cancer Coalition. In 2013, Vaughn worked with the city council in Raleigh, North Carolina. to have the local sand volleyball courts at Raleigh Jaycee Park dedicated to his friend and volleyball mentor, E. Russell “Rusty” Lurwick, whom the local volleyball community lost due to colon cancer earlier that year at the age of 55. Rusty was one of the first people Vaughn met when he moved to Raleigh and was one of the founders of the outdoor beach volleyball movement in Raleigh.

“Rusty was a larger-than-life character and an awesome volleyball player,” said Hastings. The park dedication plaque placed at the court says, “Rusty was a champion and enthusiast for the sport of volleyball. He had the ability to play hard but still treat players of all skill levels as worthy opponents.”

In 2005, cancer once again struck close to home for Vaughn. This time it was right across the street. Vaughn’s neighbor was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She lost her fight after only two short years. During this time, Vaughn always made time to visit with her and her family every day, even if it was just to sit and watch Survivor with them on television. Seeing firsthand how awful this disease is spurred Vaughn to want to do more to fight back against cancer.

In 2006, Vaughn began participating in an annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser getting his head shaved with kids fighting childhood cancer and raising money to benefit childhood cancer research. He has raised almost $60,000 over the past 15 years and has been the top fundraiser at his site in seven of those 15 years. To add to the fun, Vaughn has dyed his hair an assortment of colors including green, pink, and blue as it grows out before shaving it off for the fundraising event. This year, he let his beard grow for six months and grew his hair out for a full year. Each year Vaughn challenges himself to raise over $2,000 for St. Baldrick’s during the fundraiser. “As long as I can grow hair, there will be another St. Baldrick’s effort every February and March, and I’ll be looking for support on my Facebook page,” said Hastings.

In 2008, Vaughn missed a regular blood donation event at work and noticed a note posted about platelet donations being more useful for cancer patients and burn victims. He also learned platelet donations can be made 24 times per year – which is much more frequent than regular blood donations. Vaughn donates platelets every two weeks to help cancer patients in their battle. Including whole blood and platelets, Vaughn has donated more than 70 gallons.

In 2016, Vaughn lost his mother, Jane, to aggressive ovarian cancer. He continues to look for meaningful ways to help fight against cancer to continue his mother’s legacy of generosity and giving back.

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