Groups share in $22,000 distribution

Quincy Herald-Whig by Staff Writer Matt Hopf

Chuck Otte said he and his wife, June, are overwhelmed by the dedication from the community in their goal to support organizations in the region that help children through a fund set up in their daughter’s name.

This year, the Samantha Otte Youth Opportunity Fund will distribute more than $22,000 to 18 area nonprofits, the most the fund has provided in a single year.  A ceremony was scheduled for Monday morning, but it was canceled because of extremely cold weather.

“I don’t believe there are many communities where a group of people can get together after the loss of a child, like we’ve done, and raise this much money and have people still support us after so many years,” Chuck Otte said.

Samantha Otte died in March 2000 at age 10 after a liver transplant necessitated by Cystic Fibrosis.  Since the Sammy Fund was established later that year, $237,000 has been awarded to various organizations.

The purpose of the Sammy Fund is to support organizations that maintain and enhance community betterment, along with artistic, leadership and humanitarian opportunities for young people.

The Quincy Art Center, one of the 18 organizations, will use its grant for volunteer training and materials for the smArt Kids art mentoring program at Washington and Berrian Schools.

The center trains voluntary mentors, who go into the schools for hands-on projects twice a year.  The students also take a field trip to the art center, where the staff displays exhibits selected specifically for the children.

“After that, they go down to our studio, where they’ll use professional tools and techniques, and they’ll make projects that go with artwork they saw upstairs,” center curator and Executive Director Julie Nelson said.  “We see a lot of happiness and joy on the faces of these kids as they’re learning things, and they feel very confident, which is really wonderful.”

The fund is supported by money raised during the annual Sammy Fund weekend in October, where hundreds of people support the fund by participating in a run/walk, golf tournament and other activities.  Major sponsors of the 2013 Sammy Fund weekend were County Market, Refreshment Services Pepsi, The Quincy Herald-Whig and WGEM.  Most of the proceeds from the annual event, memorial gifts and other donations are added to the Sammy Fund, which is administered by the Community Foundation Servicing West Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri.

Chuck Otte said the goal is to eventually build the fund so it can sustain itself and provide grants through annual earnings.

“We’ve really done great over the years,” he said.  “We have a great group of volunteers.”

The Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization that serves 13 counties in West-Central Illinois, Northeast Missouri and Southeast Iowa that builds permanent charitable funds to address needs and opportunities in the communities.

More than $2 million has been distributed to more than 200 organizations since the Community Foundation was founded in 1999.

Sammy Fund Award Recipients:

Organizations awarded grants from the Samantha Otte Youth Opportunity Fund and what they will be doing with the money:

1.      Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western Illinois –  $1,500

–          To fund monthly activities for at-risk children, recruitment of volunteers and children, do background checks on volunteers, and support case management

2.      Cornerstone Foundations for Families – $2,000

–          To support Comprehensive Youth Services, a counseling and casework program for children experiencing social, emotional and behavioral problems

3.       Douglass Community Service / Kids in Motion Program – $1,000

–          Support for at-risk youth to participate in the Kids in Motion summer service learning program

4.      Girl Scouts of Central Illinois – $2,500

–          To provide membership assistance, uniform components and Girl Scout curriculum to underserved girls

5.      GPS Ministries, Inc. – $300

–          To help fund the children’s snack pack program and food pantry program

6.      Jackson Lincoln Swimming Complex – $2,500

–          Scholarship program for children who cannot afford pool fees

7.      John Wood Community College Foundation (Children’s College Scholarship Program) – $1,000

–          Tuition support for children in need to allow attendance at the summer education enrichment program at JWCC’s Children’s College

8.      Junior Achievement – $500

–          To help support Junior Achievement Program being taught in Quincy schools

9.      Midsummer Arts Faire – $500

–          To provide youth art classes held in conjunction with the 2014 Midsummer Arts Faire

10.   Payson Elementary School – $500

–          To purchase art supplies for a volunteer-based art education program for kindergarten through sixth grade students

11.   Quincy Art Center – $3,000

–          To fund the smART Kids Art Mentor Program for children at Washington and Berrian Schools

12.  Teen REACH / Quincy Christian Schools – $1,000

–          To support a three-day visit to Horn Field Campus in Macomb, IL for 40 youth and 4 staff members

13.   Quincy Family YMCA – $1,000

–          To support the 4th grade free membership program

14.  Quincy Public Library – $500

–          To support early literacy through Story Times at the Quincy Public Library by purchasing hand held manipulative objects to enhance children’s story time experiences

15.  Quincy Symphony Orchestra Association – $1,200

–          Tuition waivers for low-income children to allow participation in the Quincy Area Youth Chorus or Quincy Area Youth Orchestra.  Remaining funds, if any, will aid in purchasing new music.

16.  Transitions of Western Illinois – $1,000

–          To purchase therapeutic games to be used in counseling and therapy services for children

17.  Water Works Program at Quincy University – $1,250

–          To purchase equipment for special needs children, including a water walking platform, changing table, puddle jumpers and permanent water diapers

18.  Good News of Christmas – $1,100

–          To adopt a family’s Christmas wish list

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