Last year, Staples Tuition Grants gave away $198,000 to 90 graduating seniors, and alumni already in college.
This year, they set a goal justthismuch higher: $200,000.
But the economy remains weak, and every organization in town has its hand out. When the final count was in, they did not give out $200,000.
That spectacular leap was accomplished thanks to a supreme effort by the Staples PTA. Tuition Grants also made special appeals to past donors, reunion classes (new this year), and parents of graduating seniors.
The family of the beloved Lou Santella — who died in February — also gave fundraising a boost. They named Tuition Grants as a recipient of gifts in Lou’s honor.
Last night, that $265,000 went right back out. In a moving ceremony, 119 Staples seniors and alumni received grants that, in many cases, can mean the difference between receiving a college degree, or not.
Scott Bennewitz — Staples ’75 — described the difference Tuition Grants made to himself, his 2 siblings and his single mother.
Lee Bollert of the committee choked up describing the memorial award named for Ann Keister and Katy Macieski — best friends killed 3 decades ago, by a drunk driver.
Nellie Stagg — Staples ’09 — spoke with poise and pride of her many activities and projects at UConn.
But the highlight for me was watching so many deserving young men and women receive scholarships named for people I personally knew. Some died far too early; others led long and fruitful lives. All are now honored through named gift awards.
Dr. Jean Beasley. Richard Cion. Noel de Caprio. Irwin Donenfeld. Doug Donovan. Chuck Elliot. Sharon Frey. Jim Gillespie. Bill Horne. Michael Kowall. Phil Schuyler. Betty and Ralph Sheffer. Ken Sweetnam. Joan Wilder. Ted Youngling.
Their names do not mean as much to the recipients as they do to me.
But that’s okay.
The gifts that they inspired now have the capacity — 5, 15, 40 years later — to impact new lives.
And if, decades from now, today’s recipients pay it forward — as others have done for them — then all the names read aloud last night will truly live forever.
(Click the Staples Tuition Grants website to donate online. The mailing address is PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881.)