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Memorial fund sponsors field trip

| Monday, October 13, 2014

The Declan Sullivan Memorial Fund sponsored the third annual Horizons for Youth game-day field trip Saturday for 35 Chicago-area students and their “big sib” adult mentors to attend the Notre Dame vs. North Carolina football game. The Chicago-based nonprofit organized a group tailgate, a meeting with former running back Reggie Brooks and a walk onto the football field, as well as tickets to the game itself.

Horizons communications coordinator Tim Coffey said this was the first game and first visit to a college campus for many students. The primary goal of Horizons, which provides mentoring, tutoring and scholarships to low-income Chicago youth in kindergarten through high school, is to encourage students to attend college, he said.

“We want to show them what [college is] like, get it figured out from the very start, so that they’re always thinking about it, and it works,” he said. “Ninety percent of our students graduate high school, and 80 percent go on to college.”

Notre Dame graduates provide essential support for this mission, Coffey said. The organization, which was founded in 1990 by Notre Dame graduates Patrick Collins, Kathy Murdock and Mike Murdock, also includes several board members and student mentors who are affiliated with the University, he said.

One of the organization’s biggest benefactors is the Sullivan family. Of Horizons’ 210 students, Coffey said 65 are members of “Declan’s Class,” a group sponsored by the Declan Drumm Sullivan Memorial Fund.

Declan Sullivan, a 20-year-old Notre Dame junior and videographer for the football team, was killed in 2010 when the scissor lift from which he was filming football practice fell in high winds.

Declan’s father Barry Sullivan attended the tailgate with his wife, Alison Drumm, daughter Wyn Sullivan, a Notre Dame graduate student, and son Mac Sullivan, a sophomore. Barry Sullivan said after Declan died, donations began to pour in, and shortly after, the family established the Declan Drumm Sullivan Memorial Fund and began looking for an organization to support.

“We tried to think of something we could do that would have a positive effect, to honor his legacy positively instead of negatively,” Wyn Sullivan said.

Barry Sullivan said Horizons for Youth appealed to the family because it was a local organization and was near Old St. Patrick’s Church, where all of the Sullivan children were baptized.

“The more we found out about it, the more we liked it,” he said.

Over the next two years, Coffey said the memorial fund provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to sponsor Horizons’ students, who are chosen based on financial need and their families’ willingness to commit to the program. As a result of donations, he said the memorial fund became an integral part of the organization’s ability to take on students.

“We’ve grown exponentially for the last couple of years because of Declan’s family,” Coffey said. “We have a gala every year in his memory, and [we’ve raised] a little over 2 million dollars in the three years we’ve done it so we’ve gotten to add students.”

Horizons board member Bob Dunklau, whose company OMI Industries in Chicago funded the trip, said working with a Horizons student through its mentoring program was like having “a winning lottery ticket.”

“It’s so much more than the educational,” he said. “Obviously there’s the educational part, but that mentoring relationship, when you spend some time with these kids, it doesn’t take you long to see how that relationship is. Who’s that guy out there? It’s your parent, your older sibling, your friend all combined in one, and it’s really a lifetime relationship.”

Coffey said the program would not be where it is today without the support of the Sullivan family.

“They’ve changed the program,” he said. “We would not be here without them, for sure.”

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About Emily McConville

Emily McConville is a news writer and photographer for the Observer. She is a senior studying history and Italian with a minor in journalism. She is from Louisville, KY and lives off-campus.

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