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ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) – A Utah lawmaker is seeking private donations for a tribute honoring a Washington City man who would have been his intern this legislative session.
State Sen. Jim Dabakis has already pledged his legislative salary, which amounts to more than $12,000, toward a dormitory for homeless children near Cuernavaca, Mexico, the Spectrum of St. George reported.
The facility will be named for Zachary Lusk, who died last month in a crash involving a modified child's tricycle.
The Salt Lake City Democrat described the 20-year-old Lusk as "decent and smart and dazzling."
"When you take away somebody of his energy and talent, it was pretty devastating," he said.
The two had already gotten to know each other when Lusk started working as a producer for Dabakis' local TV show, "UP with Jim Dabakis."
The news of Lusk's death reached Dabakis while he was spending the holidays with his husband south of Mexico City.
"On Christmas Eve, I was feeling terrible about Zachary and depressed, frankly," Dabakis said.
While at a Costco in Cuernavaca, Dabakis says he met a group of kids on an outing from an orphanage. He bought all 148 children 26 large pizzas.
"We just had a great time. I kind of ran my credit card dry," Dabakis said. "What had been one of the worst moments . (became one in which) the spirit of Christmas had been redeemed."
That orphanage had an international network of support, but an official pointed Dabakis to one that did not. Using local donations, a woman built a school and dormitory for children she saw living at a trash dump.
"I know Zachary would be really proud to get that dormitory donated," Dabakis said. "There's rebar, kind of, that's been up for two or three years but they haven't been able to finish the dormitory."
Dabakis is working on bringing a sustainable supply of food and education to the orphanage with the help of The University of Utah College of Business, where Lusk was an honor scholar.