By EDWARD HUSAR
Relatives and friends of the late Samantha Otte gathered this morning at the Transitions Vocational Training Center, 631 N. 48th, to celebrate her 21st birthday by distributing $19,300 in grants to a dozen organizations that benefit children in the Quincy area. Samantha, the daughter of Chuck and June Otte, died in March 2000 following a liver transplant necessitated by cystic fibrosis. She was 10 years old.
In the wake of her passing, Samantha’s family and friends decided to create something positive in her honor by forming the Sammy Fund — a group of about 100 volunteers who work to raise money to benefit other children. The chief source of revenue is the Sammy Fund event, held each October since 2000. The Sammy event raised $40,300 last year from activities that included a run/walk, a golf tournament, an auction and a poker tournament. While some money was retained by the Sammy Fund to help provide financial backing for certain youth-oriented causes, most of the money was turned over to the Samantha Otte Youth Opportunity Fund, which was established in September 2000 through the Community Foundation of the Quincy Area. The remainder of the money raised last fall will remain in the fund to help the account grow so it can benefit future grant recipients. The fund currently has a balance of about $270,000.
“We continue to be thrilled and blessed with the support that the community has given the Sammy Fund and the Samantha Otte Youth Opportunity Fund,” Chuck Otte said in an interview. “It’s really a healing thing for all of us who loved Samantha to know that this work is continuing on after 11 years and continuing to help kids in the community. It’s a real blessing.”
The foundation has distributed 121 grants totaling more than $175,000 to help provide access to worthwhile activities for children with limited opportunities. The primary purpose of the Samantha Otte Youth Opportunity Fund is to support organizations that “maintain and enhance community betterment and artistic, leadership and humanitarian opportunities for young people,” according to a press release from the Community Foundation.According to Otte, another series of Sammy Fund events will be held Oct. 8-9. Details will be announced later this year.
First Bankers Trust Co. has served as a major sponsor of the Sammy Fund event from the beginning. Refreshment Services Pepsi, The Quincy Herald-Whig, WGEM and County Market are also major sponsors.
The Community Foundation of the Quincy Area is a not-for-profit resource that serves as an endowment builder, donor advisor, community connector and grant maker for individuals and groups in 13 counties on both sides of the Mississippi River.
• Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Central Illinois, to support one-on-one mentoring relationships in Adams County.
• Cornerstone: Foundations for Families, to support vital youth services and programs for at-risk children.
• Douglass Community Services’ Kids in Motion summer youth program, to provide scholarship support for two students to participate.
• Girl Scouts of Central Illinois, to provide membership assistance, outreach programming, “campership” support and the Take Charge program for at-risk girls.
• Good News of Christmas campaign, to adopt a family of four’s wish list.
• Jackson-Lincoln Swimming Complex, to help fund a scholarship program for children who can’t afford pool fees.
• John Wood Community College Foundation, to fund tuition waivers for income-eligible children to attend Children’s College next summer.
• Quincy Art Center, to help fund the Art Mentoring Program, which provides art instruction for students at three Adams County schools.
• Quincy Humane Society, to support the agency’s educational summer camp program for underprivileged children.
• Quincy Family YMCA, to support the cost of swim lessons for Head Start students from the Early Childhood Education Center.
• Quincy Symphony Orchestra Association, to provide need-based tuition waivers for young singers to participate in the Quincy Area Youth Chorus.
• Transitions of Western Illinois Foundation, to by electronic hardware and software for children with severe developmental disabilities. January 6, 2010
Community Foundation of the Quincy Area
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.