BUCKHANNON — Every time you encountered Zach Post, you were bound to receive a big bear hug.
That’s what his best friend, Johnny Meadows, remembers as Post’s hallmark characteristic.
“Zach was always happy, laughing and fun,” Meadows recalled recently. “His large size could be intimidating, but after getting to know him, he more resembled a soft teddy bear. Like it or not, when you came in contact with him, you were getting a literally breath-taking bear hug.”
His seemingly unshakeable cheerfulness is perhaps one reason his friends and family were so shocked when they learned he had died by suicide on Nov. 14, 2012, at just 24 years old.
Now, six years later, Post himself may be gone, but his legacy of embracing anyone in need of a hug lives on, thanks to his family and closest friends.
As Post’s family and friends prepare for the sixth annual Zach Post Memorial “Go Big or Go Home” Golf Tournament on Saturday, July 14, a few of the men he grew up with have cemented his legacy by forming a nonprofit — the Gauley River Boys — to do what Zach did: help anyone in need.
In 2017, proceeds from the golf tournament funded two $2,500 scholarships that were awarded to two Buckhannon-Upshur High School seniors interested in attending an in-state college or university to major in criminal justice, psychology, sociology, social services or other field related to helping people who might be at risk for dying by suicide.
Although the Gauley River Boys aim to continue awarding the scholarship — last year, they gave out the largest nongovernmental scholarship at B-UHS — in 2018, they’ve decided to broaden their mission.
“Seeing the success of the past golf tournaments sparked the initiative to begin our very own nonprofit organization to give back to the community,” Meadows said.
So, in May, the Gauley River Boys filed paperwork to become an official 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. They’re comprised of a six-member board, which includes Meadows, Zach Allman, Matt McCourt, Jacob Bucher, Sloan Baisden and Post’s mom, Dee Brown, who Post’s friends affectionately refer to as “Momma Dee.”
“Gauley River Boys’ mission is simple, and that is to give back to our local community,” Meadows explained. “It’s been in discussion for years to find an avenue to give back to our local community, and it’s exciting to see the plan go into action.”
Additional funds will be utilized to help anyone with a need in the Upshur County community, whether their home has been damaged by the outbreak of a fire or they’ve found themselves suddenly homeless for some other, unforeseen reason.
“Examples might be funeral costs, medical emergencies, loss to fires, weather disasters, etc.,” Meadows said. “It could be anything depending on the needs of the community. Someone might be in need of something and our board will get together and look at it, and maybe a check will just show up unexpectedly in their mailbox.”
The story behind the Gauley River Boys is simple — in June 2005, when Meadows was a junior in high school, he and some of his closest friends, many of whom were members of the B-UHS football team, took a spontaneous weekend trip to Meadows’ family camp, situated on the Gauley River in Craigsville, W.Va. They fished and swam and went rafting on the Gauley River. They built fires and bonded over memories from the year gone by.
The group of friends went back the next year, and soon it became an annual tradition —
a chance to catch a break from their busy lives and catch up with each other.
“No one was more involved and enthusiastic about the Gauley River Boys than Zach was, which is why Zach and his cause is closely associated with the Gauley River Boys,” Meadows said.
Fourteen years after the first Gauley River Boys’ expedition, connections between those who take the trip are stronger than ever, even as new faces have been added to the mix.
“As the years went by, new friends were made and it seems the tradition gets stronger as time goes on,” Meadows reflected. “This year, we celebrated our 14th annual Gauley River Boys camping trip where we can enjoy the river, great food, reminisce and catch up with one another. Usually, 20 to 25 people show up
The group has been there for each other during darker times, too – like the day the group and Post’s mom, Brown, found out about his death.
“I will never forget that devastating day or the support I received from these men,” Brown said. “One by one, they came to my house. They brought their families — my families — to offer anything they could and to also give support to one another. They continue to do this.”
As for fundraising to support local community members, the Gauley River Boys have already surpassed their 2017 efforts through the golf tournament, their signature event. They raised approximately $5,000 last year, but if all goes smoothly this year, the group could draw in as much as $8,000, Meadows predicted.
This year’s scramble-style tournament costs $45 per person, which includes a cart, 18 holes
But time to sign up for the tournament is running out. Four-person teams must register by Saturday, July 7, and can do so directly on the event’s Facebook page by searching for “6th annual Zach Post Memorial ‘Go Big or Go Home’ Golf Tournament” or contacting Meadows at 304-280-1091.
Anyone who would like to assist the Gauley River Boys in their mission is asked to mail a donation to 140 Hillcrest Dr., Buckhannon, WV 26201.