Greensburg native and occasional resident Matt Deighton got on the Stars of Hope bus in November 2019, along with New York Says Thank You Foundation Founder and Executive Director Jeff Parness. He is still on that bus, traveling on a cross-country tour bringing hope to people all over the United States, all in memory of his experiences with rebuilding Greensburg after the May 4, 2007 tornado.
Deighton was in Pratt on April 30 for a visit with friends and to replenish Cathy Abbott’s supply of Duck Salt and Duck Nuts, which she carries at her store, Cathy’s Closet. Deighton created the products in Greensburg and markets them nationwide.
The bus tour however, is about spreading hope to others who are going through all types of tragedies.
“It is more than a bus. The whole tour is a monument to how the people of Greensburg pulled themselves back up after the 2007 tornado destroyed the town,” said Parness. “Stars of Hope is a monument of healing and hope through art.”
The Stars of Hope bus tour was a dream of many people for years as the Stars of Hope (SOH) project grew in size and stature of national recognition. In 2019, the bus tour became a reality for Deighton. The SOH started in Greensburg to bring hope to families after the devastating tornado that leveled the town in May of 2007. A family from Texas sent 220 wooden starts for students to be creative with.
“The kids painted words of hope, or just [a] simple symbol on the star and put them where there house used to be,” said Deighton.
Some of these stars are now hanging at the big red barn north of town, which was built by the New York Says Thank you Foundation. Since then, approximately 130,000 stars have been created.
According to Parness, the tour started in Greensburg, where some of the original SOH painters, who are now seniors, cut the ribbon to kick off the tour. From there, the bus made its way west to states like Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and California. Along the way, Deighton and Parness stopped to reconnect with some people who they had met through the Stars of Hope program.
A woman in Arizona who had survived the San Bernardino used the bus to speak to a group of school children about surviving a mass shooting. The captain of the SWAT team from that same shooting was overcome with emotion when he saw a picture of himself on the side of the bus receiving a star from a young girl.
Parness said there was one simple goal for 2019: do one event with the bus. Before the end of the year, the crew had completed 15 events. The bus tour is currently on a hiatus due to COVID-19 but hopes to get back on the road soon and bring more hope and healing to communities.
For Deighton, traveling with the bus tour is a way to spread the support he and others in the town of Greensburg received when they needed it most, after the May 4, 2007 tornado.
According to Abbott, one of Deighton’s Pratt friends, he goes to areas that have had tragedy’s like tornadoes or fires and offers support.
“He recently went to California to help the first responders there because they were committing suicide because of all the fires that they could not help get put out,” Abbott said. “He travels around trying to give people help and positive thoughts, quarantining himself in the bus for required time at each place he goes.”
Abbott said the bus also stopped recently in Florida where Deighton and Parness comforted families and friends of shooting victims, as well as storm survivors.
For more information on the Stars of Hope Program visit https://starsofhopeusa.org/.
For more information on the New York Says Thank You Foundation visit http://newyorksaysthankyou.org/.
For Duck Nuts and Duck Salt, visit Cathy’s Closet at 322 S. Main, Pratt, Kansas or call 620-672-6545.
* Reporter Hannah Brown contributed to this report.