Sammy Fund grants top $150K

Thirteen groups share in nearly $19,000 awarded on what would have been Samantha Otte’s 20th birthday

Jill Arnold Blickhan remembers how excited Samantha Otte was when a fundraiser was held for her to offset rising medical costs.

“After it was over, she said, ‘Can we have a party like this next year?’” said Blickhan, executive director of the Community Foundation of the Quincy Area.

“Actually, she wanted to do it the next weekend,” said June Otte, Samantha’s mother.

Samantha Otte, who died at age 10 after a liver transplant necessitated by cystic fibrosis, would have celebrated her 20th birthday today.  A small party was held this morning at the Quincy Art Center to honor her memory and to award $18,700 in grants to 13 youth-based organizations through the Samantha Otte Youth Opportunity Fund.

More than 100 grants totaling $150,235 have been distributed from the fund since it was established in 2000.  The fund is supported by proceeds from the annual Sammy Event, in which a run/walk, golf tournament, auction and dinner are held during a two-day weekend in October.  The Community Foundation administers the grants.

Though grant distributions this year were down slightly from 2008, this year’s Sammy Event raised more than $40,000, making it one of the most successful in the 10-year history.  Ralph and Lisa Oakley were chairmen of the 2009 event.

“With the economy, we thought we might raise less money this year,” said Chuck Otte, Samantha’s father.  “We did really well.”

Two new grants were given this year.  One was to the University of Illinois Extension, which is working with a group of teens living in the northwest section of Quincy to help create a community development project.

Jennifer Sousa, community and economic development coordinator for the University of Illinois Extension, said the group (which is calling itself the “Youth Movement”) has surveyed other teens and is compiling the results to find out what kind of project it would like to undertake.

“When it comes to community and economic development, sometimes we forget to ask the kids what they want,” Sousa said.  “Things like this can help keep young people in our community.”

Another new grant was given to the Fall Creek Friends 4-H Club, which plans to create a general store inside the historic Lewis Round Barn Museum near Mendon. 

“Our goal is to create a room that if it was 1930 and you walked into a general store, what would you see?” said Alison Tieman, a representative with the club.

Tieman said a group of 14 kids are taking home one or two items from that period, cleaning them and researching them before they are displayed in the general store, which is expected to be ready for viewing by spring.

Other grants were awarded to:

·                    Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Adams County, to support one-on-one mentoring relationships for 103 children

·                    Camp Callahan, to support camperships for disabled youths.

·                    Girl Scouts of Central Illinois, to provide a leadership development program so disadvantaged girls at Baldwin School can participate in the “Staying Safe” program.

·                    Good News of Christmas, to adopt a wish list of a family with four children.

·                    Jackson-Lincoln Swimming Complex, to help fund season pass scholarships for 450 children.

·                    John Wood Community College Foundation, to fund tuition waivers for its Children’s College summer program.

·                    Muddy River Opera Company, to pay for nearly 300 students at Washington School to see the opera in March.

·                    Quanada, to fund a play about emphasizing personal safety and preventing dating violence in conjunction with the Quincy Community Theatre.

·                    Quincy Family YMCA, to pay for swim lessons for Head Start students from the Early Childhood Education Center

·                    Quincy Art Center, to provide funding for an art mentoring program at Washington School.

·                    Sheridan Swim Team, Inc., to provide swimming lessons for children from the Redmon and Lee Center.

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