When Rick Haylon returned from the funeral of six-year-old Ben Wheeler, one of the shooting victims in the Newtown elementary school massacre, he was moved, like so many others, by not only the tragedy but the response.
Trinity Church, which Newtown resident Haylon attends, was packed and overflowing for Wheeler's funeral, with some 150 people spilling out to the front lawn, standing throughout the two-hour service.
"All of you, and friends from throughout our lives, have reached out to us with thoughts and prayers and offers to help," wrote Haylon to a list of friends following the service. "This has been so much appreciated. However, the urge to send food and teddy bears, while welcome now, will not address the very critical long-term needs of the community. A couple days ago I was inspired to come up with a plan to put all of the offers to help to good use, and to do so for many, many years to come."
That inspiration came from a CNN interview with Sue Vogelman, a friend of Haylon's, and the director of youth services at the Trinity Church of Newtown. One of Vogelman's students was Wheeler, and she shared the heart-wrenching story on CNN.
Wanting to help with more than words and Teddy Bears, Haylon, with the help of his website designer sister Marile Borden, set up an endowment fund through Trinity Church. As it says on the website, it is "A perpetual endowment fund to support children in the Newtown, CT, community through Trinity Episcopal Church, in honor of Ben Wheeler and the other angels of Sandy Hook School, and in appreciation of the work of Rev. Kathie Adams-Shepherd, pastor,
and Sue Vogelman, minister of children’s education."
Borden, who grew up in CT, lives in Northborough with her two kids, who are 6 and 9. Her brother has lived in Newtown for 14 years, and he has three kids, the youngest of whom is in high school.
"My brother recognized the tireless of efforts of both Sue, and their pastor, Kathie Adams-Shepherd, in the wake of the tragedy," Borden told Northborough Patch. "At the same time, he had countless requests from friends and family, saying 'What can we do to help?' So the idea to endow the children and youth ministry program at their church was born. "
Haylon is hoping to raise $1.5 million toward the endowment fund. He also has the backing of a fundraising friend who believes "we can make it happen."