QUINCY — Chuck Otte used some of the same words on Tuesday that he used in 2000 when he and his wife, June, announced the formation of the Samantha Otte Youth Opportunity Fund in honor of their late daughter.
“Grief is a strange experience,” he said. “As odd as it sounds, it does have positive aspects. People from throughout our community have joined together to create a positive from the tragedy of a young girl’s death.
“We will make a difference through the Samantha Otte Youth Opportunity Fund. In the years to come, it is my hope that people will be involved in this endeavor not only to help June, Chris and I deal with the loss of Samantha, but more important, they will be involved because they want to help children in our community.”
The Samantha Otte Youth Opportunity Fund and the Community Foundation Serving West Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri presented more than $25,000 in grants to 18 youth-based organizations during a press conference Tuesday morning at the Cheerful Home Child Care and Early Learning Center.
Samantha died in March 2000 at the age of 10 after a liver transplant necessitated by cystic fibrosis. The Sammy Fund has awarded $262,000.
“This started off with this one small soul, but it quickly evolved into an amazing blessing,” June Otte said. “It’s been a blessing for all of us who knew Samantha and loved her and for those of us who grieved her loss, but even more than that, it has grown into a blessing for thousands of area children who now have access to a opportunities that many of us do take for granted.”
The fund is supported by the money raised during the annual Sammy Fund weekend. The Ottes recently announced that the 2014 fundraiser would be the last, but Dave Oakley, president of the Breakfast Kiwanis Club, said the club will continue the annual golf outing and contribute a significant portion to the Sammy Fund. The Sammy & Kids Golf Outing is set for Oct. 11 at Westview Golf Course.
“Sammy would be 25 today, and hopefully we can continue honoring her name and the work you guys have done for the years to come,” Oakley said.
The Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization that serves 12 counties in West Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri that builds permanent charitable funds to address needs and opportunities in the communities. More than $2.7 million has been distributed to more than 200 organizations since the Community Foundation began making grants in 1999.
Organizations awarded grants from the Samantha Otte Youth Opportunity Fund and what they’ll use the money for:
• Advocacy Network for Children: to support a personal safety prevention program in four counties.
• Big Brothers and Big Sisters of West Central Illinois: to fund additional youth mentoring matches for at-risk children in Adams County.
• Cheerful Home Child Care and Early Learning Center: to provide support for canvas artwork displays for the children at the facility.
• Cornerstone: Foundations for Families: to support the Comprehensive Youth Services funding, which provides school-based counseling services for at-risk youth 18 and under.
• Douglass Community Services, Inc. for Kids in Motion: to provide support for at-risk teens and pre-teens to participate in the Kids in Motion program.
• Girl Scouts of Central Illinois: to support the “Be Healthy, Be You!” program, which includes membership fee assistance for 275 girls in the Quincy area.
• Good News of Christmas: to assist in providing gifts to needy families at Christmas.
• Junior Achievement: to support programs in Quincy schools teaching work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy.
•John Wood Community College Foundation: to support low-income children to attend Children’s College.
• Midsummer Arts Faire: to support youth art class and programming at the 2015 fair.
• Muddy River Opera Company: to support the 2015 Children’s Opera “Alice and Wonderland.”
• Quincy Art Center: to provide funding for the smArt Kids Art Mentoring Program, which provides art instruction for children at area schools that do not have art classes.
• Quincy Public Library: to support the addition of “literacy learning with Legos” in the children’s play area.
• Quincy Symphony Orchestra Association: to support tuition waivers for children and music for the Quincy Area Youth Chorus and Youth Orchestra.
• The Salvation Army of Quincy: to provide funding for the Kroc Academy after-school program.
• Transitions of Western Illinois Foundation: to support the purchase of education materials for Transitions School.
• YMCA of Quincy: to provide funding for YMCA school-age child care program for area youth and families.
• YWCA of Quincy: to provide funding for the “A Girl Like Me” youth development program for girls in grades K-8.