COVID-19 may have stopped some sporting events — professional and otherwise — from taking place, but it hasn’t stopped a Gloucester County couple from raising scholarship money in memory of their son.
Austin Muckenfuss was just 14 when, in November of 2015, he was struck by a car and killed while in a Glassboro crosswalk. Over the past three years, Austin’s parents, Kimberly and Rich Muckenfuss, who live in Washington Township, raised $33,000, the majority from a touch-football tournament held annually in Austin’s honor.
The money goes to the Austin Muckenfuss Scholarship Fund, established to support local high school students.
This year, because of the pandemic, the family has nixed the game and is instead raising money virtually, via direct donations; gift-basket giveaways; and the sale of masks ($10 each), donated by business sponsors and decorated with Austin’s name and the fund’s logo. The logo has Austin’s football number (13) and angel wings with the words, “Remembered forever Austin,” and appears on other clothing that Austin’s friends and parents wear.
“The kids love to wear the apparel, and we love seeing it,” said Kimberly, a nurse who runs a support group at Jefferson Hospital in Washington Township for parents who have lost a child. “It just warms my heart because as a parent, your biggest fear is that your child is going to be forgotten.”
The Muckenfusses have raised more than $6,000 this year.
When the couple married, Kimberly and Rich each had two boys from previous relationships. Then they had Austin together, and he became the glue of the family, they said.
Actually, that part hasn’t changed.
“He is still the glue to our family,” his mother said. “Even though he is not here physically, he still holds us together as a family, no doubt.”
Austin played on the Washington Township freshman football team. After he died, his coaches set up the Austin Muckenfuss Teammate Award. They pick one player each from the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior class who is the best teammate. All four receive the annual award.
“You actually see these younger kids who didn’t know Austin, but had the opportunity to hear about the type of player and the type of teammate he was,” Rich Muckenfuss said. “And it’s really beautiful to see how these kids actually strive and want to be that good teammate and win that award.”
In addition to the yearly award, Washington Township’s football team hands out a weekly Austin Muckenfuss Hard Hat Award to one player who works hard and is a good teammate.
“Austin was a good kid, whose teachers and fellow students spoke so highly of,” said current Washington Township head varsity football coach Mike Schatzman. “We’re so happy that we have these awards to preserve his memory.”
Every year in November, the freshman and sophomore classes play each other in what is known as the Austin Muckenfuss Memorial Football Game.
The scholarships in Austin’s memory aren’t awarded to just the top students. Those applying for the Austin Muckenfuss Scholarship are asked to write an essay about something they had to overcome in their life to make them a better person.
“The essay is probably about 90% of getting the award,” Rich said.
Without the touch-football tournament, a big boost for the fund-raiser were the masks that Kathy Seagrave made with Austin’s logo on it. Seagrave works for Rich Muckenfuss as an administrative assistant in the construction business.
“I like being part of pretty much anything that has to do with Austin,” Seagrave said.
The family is hoping by next April the touch-football tournament can return. The game stopped this year, but the fund-raising and outpouring of support have continued. And in doing so, the memory of Austin Muckenfuss has very much been kept alive.