PARSIPPANY — Lionel Zachary Chambers, 23, a 2014 Parsippany High School Graduate traveled more than 7,000 miles across America to surprise his college friends.
At Parsippany High School, Chambers was an all conference/all county player in both basketball and track and field. He was captain of both teams in his junior and senior years.
Chambers said “I was lucky enough to run track at Cornell and be a Division I athlete after my success in high school.”
After high school Lionel attended Cornell University graduating in 2018. Chambers, remains living in Parsippany after college, says the hardest thing about graduating from Cornell University is missing his friends.
He drove from New Jersey to Upstate New York before flying to Minnesota, Oregon and California from April to June.
After one successful trip to visit a friend who was having a hard time, Chambers decided to surprise the rest of the group.
But his five classmates were scattered across America.
Oseoba Airwele lives in Ithaca, New York; Michael and James Smith were in Wayzata, Minnesota; Eason Recto lives in Portland, Oregon and Myles Lazarou lives in Los Angeles.
After speaking to their parents and friends to find out when they were available for a surprise visit, Chambers visited one friend each weekend.
The group became close when they joined the track and field team at the Ivy League college, before living together in their junior and senior years.
He went from seeing them every day at college and then he started a full time job and it was hard to see them because of the distance.
Lionel said “I was extremely pleased with their reactions and how it all went and my college friends were thrilled to see me.”
“When you put time and money into something, I couldn’t be happier that I was able to pull it off,” he said.
After arriving in each destination Chambers would meet with his friend’s family before surprising them. Myles Lazarou can only repeat ‘woah’ when he sees Chambers at his house.
“Is that Lionel? Dude, how? I’m so confused right now is all he manages to say as he tries to process his shock.”
James Smith, in Minnesota, is cooking with his parents when Chambers suddenly appears in the kitchen.
Looking up from the frying pan he says “I hate you. What, no, I hate you, leave me alone’ as he laughs and processes what has just happened.”
Airwele is enjoying a walk along a snow-lined path in New York when Chambers taps him on the back.
He grins as he takes his earphones out to greet his friend with ‘you lie’, seeming to indicate Chambers might have told him he was elsewhere that weekend.
Recto, in Portland, is in line for the opening of a doughnut shop when Chambers approaches him.
“What the freakin’ way. No way. I am so excited,’ said Recto.
While waiting for Michael Smith, James’s brother, to get back from his run Chambers walks outside to meet him before they pull each other in for a hug.
“Being with the people you care about the most. I just feel like the whole weekend there was just a smile on my face,” said Chambers.
“I feel like that’s because when I’m around all these people I am the best version of myself.”
Later, describing his friends’ reactions, Chambers says they felt ‘between really confused and happy’ which was to be expected.
“Their reactions were what I expected of them to be because of how crazy is it for your friend to fly across the country and then randomly show up in your own house – I would be confused, too,” continued Chambers.
“I don’t think that I have ever received so much positive feedback from something I’ve made – I got DMs, texts, calls, and comments off people telling me that they were crying or tearing up watching the video, which I was really surprised by.”
“People told me how much seeing the video made them smile and appreciate their own friendships, which is unreal to me”
“So Myles, Easten, Oseoba, Michael and James, no matter how many miles separate us, no matter how many days go by that we don’t see one
another. No matter what anyone says, I want to let you know that your friendship means the world to me. I appreciate all of you guys and I love you guys because at the end of the day, after all of these trips, I realized I just wasn’t missing my friends, but I was missing my second family. Until next time boys,” Lionel ended the video.
Chambers graduated Cornell with a BS – Information Science with a minor in Communications. He currently is employed at KPMG LLP as a Digital Technology Producer.