It's one of the first things those who knew Nicholas Ott seem to mention.
"He always had a smile on his face," said Jill Ocone, Ott's junior-year English teacher at Manchester Township High School.
"Everyone talks about his smile," said Annie Sullivan, a friend who went through middle and high school with Ott.
One year ago, on Aug. 10, 2011, the 23-year-old U.S. Marine Corporal from Manchester lost his life while he was conducting combat operations in Afghanistan's Helmand province.
As part of remembering Ott, a 2006 graduate of , a memorial fund was created in his name. When it came time to figure out what to call a fundraiser set for 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, at the high school track, the Marine's seemingly defining characteristic came into play.
When he recalled his former student during an interview last year, about Ott was that his smile was "contagious."
"Which is why we worked it into the title," Sullivan said.
During the event, called "Nick's (S)Mile of Quarters," participants will be asked to collect enough quarters to span one mile.
"We were looking at an interesting way to measure donations," Sullivan said. Each foot of quarters equals about $3, organizers figure — a mile of quarters is "a very aggressive goal" of nearly $16,000.
Funds will go toward the Manchester Township Educational Foundation's Cpl. Nicholas S. Ott Memorial Fund, which awards money for scholarships and improvements to the .
"Nick went for everything 100 percent," Sullivan said. "That's how we're approaching this fundraiser."
Organizers hope the event can become a yearly remembrance of Ott, who joined the Marine Corps in 2007 as an infantryman.
"We're trying to put this in place so everyone can do it every year," Sullivan said, adding that everyone from the township's diverse demographics of families with children to seniors is encouraged to participate.
The year since the death of Ott, a high school wrestler, runner and football player, has been "surreal," Sullivan said.
"It's been very difficult at times," she said.
Their graduating class had just over 260 students — "we've all stayed close," Sullivan said. Though she now lives in Baltimore, Sullivan still has connections with the Ott family. She and a group of friends visit with his parents. They cheer on his sister, a Hawk bowler, and take her out for ice cream.
Likewise, Manchester remained important to Ott, even after he joined the Marines.
"He was very aware of where he came from," Ocone said. "He'd always stop by the school."
Ocone's final visit with Ott was in October 2010 when he came by his former teacher's class at the end of the day to say hello.
"It was probably one of the best hours I've ever spent in my life," Ocone said. "He had turned into a man. He was mature and sure about himself. He was happy."
One of Ocone's fondest memories of Ott was when he and the football team participated in the high school's annual Hawkapalooza in 2005.
Ott and his teammates dressed "as very nice females," Ocone said, and proceeded to dance to "It's Raining Men" and "YMCA."
They won the lip-syncing competition that year and donated the $100 prize to charity. Ocone recently found a copy of the tape and gave it to Ott's parents.
Ott is remembered as "an incredible person" by those who knew him.
"He was a friend to everyone and he wouldn't think twice about helping someone," Sullivan said. "He was really great at making everyone feel special."
In recent weeks, Ott's family was able to adopt Tug, the IED dog assigned to the squad led by the Marine. The dog, which is expected to make an appearance at the fundraiser, "is giving [the Ott family] another connection to their son," Sullivan said.
Those who want to be part of a Quarter Team are asked to arrive for registration at 8:30 a.m. Participants are encouraged to convert their donations into quarters before the rain or shine event, and teams are welcome. Food, games and raffles also will help to raise money.
"The whole goal is to keep that smile shining," Ocone said.
More Manchester Patch coverage of Cpl. Nicholas Ott can be found here: