Create a Memorial Legacy

Thursday, September 15, 2011

After the loss of a loved one, generally there are two roads grievers take.  The first is to go mock two with your hair on fire and don’t think about it.  Bury the thoughts, the feelings, get things done.  The other road is isolation, can’t move, can’t do anything.  It’s an effort to leave your bed every morning.  But many have found balance and healing by creating a purpose to honor their loved one.  It allows their memory to live on and it is a positive channel to their grief. 

Community Foundations are described at as foundations that are tax-exempt charitable organizations created by and for the people of our communities throughout the United States. We enable people with philanthropic interests to easily and effectively support the issues they care about — immediately, or through their wills.  Donors can either use personal assets to fund the foundation or they may request grants or create donation opportunities for others to fund the foundation.  Most families focus on something their loved one cared deeply about, such as child welfare, animal rescue, or a certain medical condition. 

Recently I learned about a non-profit that was set up to honor Stephen Siller of the New York Fire Department who lost his life in 9/11 after going off duty only to hear of the catastrophic events at the World Trade Center on his way home.  Since the tunnels had been closed preventing his return to the site, he parked his truck at the tunnel, suited up in his heavy gear and ran from the tunnel all the way to the towers.  There he gave his passion and his life for his fellow citizens.  His family created which has grown nation-wide and has allowed donations to an ‘In the Line of Duty’ programs which pay tribute to the 343 FDNY fallen brothers who sacrificed their lives on 9/11.  These runs support the Weill-Cornell Burn Center and Burn Centers across America, and restores shattered lives by building homes for surviving quadriplegic servicemen returning from combat.

A “Donor Advised Fund” lets you contribute funds at any time through a third party and can be named for the individual.  In example, the Stephen Jones Memorial Fund.    It may be an annual round-table event whereby your family meets on your loved one’s birthday or date of death and decide what donations will be made in their name to a cause they may have found meaningful. One of the advantages to the donor advised fund is it allows an immediate tax deduction and yet you can disseminate the funds for years to come.  There are tax considerations and you should consult a professional for details.  Many companies offer donor advised funds including Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Morgan Stanley, etc.  You will want to consider the investment alternatives and fees for each company and seek professional advice.

Often in tragic circumstances, memorial foundations give grieving families an outlet into which they can pour their time and resources, maintain a bond with their lost loved one, and in some cases attempt to help others avoid a similar fate.   When former Milford High School football coach Dick Corbin was killed in a car accident last October, his family was too distraught to think about things like starting a charity in his memory.

But months later, after friends and co-workers began donating money to what would become the Richard C. Corbin Memorial Scholarship for student-athletes, the idea made perfect sense, said Corbin’s wife, Ruth Ann Corbin.  “This was his true love – the student-athlete,” she said, “He would be very proud of this.”Read more:

Another inspiring story is the John Tomlin Scholarship Fund.  John Tomlin lost his life in the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado.  He loved church and Chevrolet trucks.  Earlier that year, he had gone on a missions trip to Mexico to help build a home for a poverty stricken family.  That trip had changed his life and it created an opportunity for his parents to honor his memory by creating a scholarship fund at his local church for kids to be able to go on a mission trip.

Lastly, tragedy often defines the remainder of our lives and gives us a new life purpose.  No better example than this came from the wrongful death of a five year old little girl, Allie Berrelez.  The creation of the Alie Foundation (  has helped in “stranger awareness” programs in schools including visits with specially trained dogs for finding evidence from predators.  Letizia (Alie’s grandmother) wanted Alie’s family to donate one bloodhound to a police department in Colorado that would always be available for missing children cases.  She asked Richard (grandfather) to take on this project and see it through.  Letizia’s concern would be the beginning of the Alie Bloodhound Project.  Today over 180 bloodhounds have been placed in police departments.   Although there is never closure to loss,  today, through advanced technologies in DNA testing they were able to name her assailant.  The passion can be felt in this riveting press conference

The causes abound and are as many as there are unique individuals.  Finding the passion which represents your loved one gives your efforts the meaning and honor that memorializes their life.  Finding the silver lining in your loss just may be the healing your heart needs, a rewarding civic contribution, and surely a smile coming back from the heavens.

Sympathy Solution’s ( mission is to provide lasting and meaningful sympathy gifts which will support the grieving person. For nearly a decade, we have been carefully selecting our gifts to ensure each item would be something you are proud to send as a gift.

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