Aaron’s memory lives on By Todd Stanford
As a member of Milton’s boys basketball team from 2001 to 2005, Justin Jarrett won four District 4 Class AAA gold medals — only three of which are in his possession.
Jarrett placed the fourth, the one from his senior year, inside the casket of his best friend, Aaron Klinger. Klinger, a long-range specialist during his playing days with the Black Panthers, died in a car accident in January 2009, just one semester short of graduating from Bloomsburg.
As chronicled by The Daily Item and other local media, Jarrett — who studied film at Penn State — decided to fulfill the postgraduation plans that he, Klinger and Kylar Krebs had by biking across the country in 2009.
Jarrett and Krebs’ journey is the basis of their movie, “For Aaron,” a documentary about the people they met during their cross-country trek.
The film was produced by JTwofilms, Jarrett’s production company. James Brown, a sports announcer for CBS Sports and Showtime, is an executive producer.
“The whole theme of the movie is hope,” says Jarrett, “and moving forward with life.”
Klinger, Jarrett, and Krebs all grew up together on the same street in New Columbia. The three were inseparable growing up, and Jarrett chronicled many of their childhood adventures with a digital camera he got in the fifth grade.
“We filmed everything every summer,” says Jarrett, who recently moved to the D.C. area to be closer to his business partners. “We used a lot of that footage in the film to tell the story.”
“For Aaron” debuted in a showing at Milton High School last August before more than 800 people. But the timing of the movie’s completion was too late for the film-festival circuit, meaning that Jarrett hopes to make some festivals this year and perhaps get an offer from a large production company to buy the film and distribute it nationally.
But Jarrett says that goal is secondary to the ones he and Krebs have already accomplished: They’ve helped establish a scholarship at Milton in Klinger’s name, they’ve made the journey, and their film has already touched people.
“To be honest, our whole goal was, if we can put on film what I went through when I lost Aaron, if I can put that on film so someone else can relate to it … and look at death and not be afraid. If we could touch one other person with the film, then we did our jobs.”
Jarrett says that he gets phone calls and e-mails from people who tell him how touched they are just from watching the trailer on youtube.
The bike trip took place from August to October of 2009. The days were long but fulfilling for Jarrett and Krebs.
“To be honest, it was the experience of a lifetime for us,” Jarrett says. “When we’re out on the road, there were times when we were exhausted and tired and didn’t want to be on a bike anymore. But … you get up, you get on the bike, and you meet new people with new stories. It was just an endless amount of possibilities.”
After spending nine months editing the film, Jarrett showed it to James Brown and Klinger’s parents, Mike and Becky.
“They loved it,” Jarrett says. “They gave us their blessing.”
Hopefully, film festivals beckon. In the meantime, “For Aaron” might be shown at the Campus Theatre in Lewisburg this spring, and officials at Manheim Central High School in Lancaster County — which recently lost four male athletes in a car crash — have inquired about a screening of the film.
As for basketball, the sport that Jarrett and Klinger played religiously as kids, Jarrett very rarely plays anymore.
“Playing (1-on-1) with (Aaron), that was my favorite memory playing basketball,” he says. “That hasn’t been the same since.”
— Sports reporter Todd Stanford covers high school boys basketball for The Daily Item. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.