Over the past few days, many of us who knew Eric Sawyer have wondered how best to celebrate and memorialize this beautiful and loving soul.
To honour Eric and his family, long-time Green Turtle Cay visitor and Sawyer family friend, Chelise Brodtmann Benvenutti, has launched the Eric Sawyer Memorial Fund, which will benefit Abaco’s Every Child Counts (ECC.)
If you knew Eric, you know how much school meant to him. Though he attended Green Turtle Cay’s Tiny Turtles preschool, local primary schools wouldn’t admit him because they didn’t feel able to accommodate a child with Down Syndrome.
Eric wanted so badly to attend school with the other kids that he would sit on his front steps every day, lunchbox in hand.
But for a while, it seemed he might end up like so many Bahamians with special needs — languishing at home with loving but inexperienced caregivers, with little opportunity to socialize with peers or explore his unique talents and abilities.
Fortunately, around that time, Lyn Major, whose background is in teaching, psychology and social work, founded Every Child Counts in Marsh Harbour. ECC provides alternative education for those with learning, developmental or physical disabilities and enables them to become productive, successful and independent citizens.
Though ECC receives some government support, more than 90% of the school’s funding comes through non-government grants, gift shop sales, tuition and private donations, the latter accounting for more than 30% of their budget.
Eric was one of ECC’s very first students. When he graduated in 2013, he immediately went to work with the school’s vocational program, Starfish Enterprises. Having visited Eric at work there, I can tell you first-hand how proud he was of the soaps, cutlery packets and other items he made, and the income he earned.
“In the States,” says Chelise,“it’s common for a family to announce in an obituary that in lieu of flowers, a contribution may be made to the family’s favorite organization or charity. Eric’s parents are constantly raising funds and awareness for Every Child Counts. I wanted to create this fund in Eric’s memory and to thank his family for their support of ECC.”
This is not a Go Fund Me page, Chelise points out, but rather a way to honour Eric and his family. She has discussed the fund with his parents and they are supportive.
Chelise will be traveling to Green Turtle Cay on Dec. 15 and says nothing would make her happier than to be able to present a check to ECC in Eric’s name.
To contribute, please make cheques payable to the “Eric Sawyer Memorial Fund – (Account # 1636646)” and mail either to:
Chelise Brodtmann Benvenutti
2135 Mitteer Drive
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
The People’s Bank
408 Hwy 90 East
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
If you send your contribution directly to the bank, please drop Chelise a note at her mailing address above or email address below to let her know.
She wants to include a list of the contributors when she presents the money to Every Child Counts, and give Eric’s family a copy as well.
For further information about the Eric Sawyer Memorial Fund, email Chelise at chelise(at)benvenuttilaw(dot)com, or call her at (228) 467-0744 or (228) 363-2846.