The Tony and Nik Foundation will host its first golf tournament at Chantilly National Golf & Country Club on April 25, but making it a successful annual event is just one of the foundation's goals.
The foundation is named for Tony Mason and Nik Pendola, two Stone Bridge students who were killed in a car crash March 27, 2004. Both were deeply involved in the high school's drama department. The group that was formed by parents and friends after the teens' deaths aims to honor their memories by giving back to the department that had been their home.
But the foundation didn't want to just be known as a group that showed up now and then to give out scholarships — which it has, already, to graduating drama students all over the county.
"We're thinking big," said John Pendola, Nik's father and president of the foundation. "There's a need for people who want to support performing arts. There's no venue to do that."
The legacy left by Tony and Nik at the Stone Bridge drama department was one of drive and acceptance. The pair would show up at 7:30 a.m. and sometimes stay until 6 or 7 p.m. each night.
Tony, a senior, and Nik, a sophomore, also transcended what can seem in high school insurmountable: the difference between the grades. They were always encouraging people to join the drama department, no matter who they were or what class they were in, said Sue Mason, Tony's mother.
"It didn't matter to them," she said. "They just said, 'Come on.'"
"I ALMOST couldn't believe it when I got that call from Mrs. Mason," said Glen Hochkeppel, Stone Bridge drama director. "You couldn't have picked two kids who were more the center of the department. They were just as devoted as you could image."
Nik was the star — a gifted comedian who was acting as the comic lead in "Kiss Me Kate" at the time of his death. Tony loved stage managing. He'd run the lights and build the sets and sometimes step out on stage as an actor.
When the two teenagers died three weeks before the premiere of "Kiss Me Kate," Hochkeppel knew the show had to go on.
"We had this real sense of mission with the play," Hochkeppel said. "We wanted to finish well in the honor of these two kids."
Now, the Pendola and Mason families are continuing to honor their sons' memories through the foundation. The goal is not just to help out individual drama students with scholarships and unrestricted grants to drama departments — the foundation aims to encourage the flourishing of the stage all over the county and making its schools the place for students to act.
"What we want to do is have people say, if you move to Loudoun County, the support for performing arts at the high-school level is phenomenal," Pendola said. "It's much more than scholarships."
For example, in February the foundation sponsored a week-long Shakespeare seminar with an expert from the Globe Theatre in London.
"That's the type of activity that the foundation can fund that wouldn't happen otherwise," Pendola said.
The golf tournament is part of the plan to make the Tony and Nik Foundation a presence in the county. With a successful, high-profile annual event, the foundation will not only raise money but raise its profile.
THE FOUNDATION proved it was serious when it named its first board of directors in February. Among the names is Academy Award-nominated actor Ned Beatty. And eventually, said Pendola, the foundation hopes to help establish an arts and theater complex in the county.
"It's really a communitywide, countywide effort," Pendola said. "It's not a Stone Bridge effort."
For the Pendola and Mason families, the foundation has become a way to continue doing what their sons did during their short lives: encourage students to take part in drama.
Mason remembered the outpouring of emotion after the accident. She heard many testimonies about the good the two boys had done.
"I had mothers coming up to me and saying they listened," she said. "They helped kids."
Monday, April 25, at the Chantilly National Golf & Country Club. For more information or to register, visit www.tonyandnik.org or call 703-676-2518.