During their all-too-short lives, Tanner Jeans and Joshua Williams never met. But they had several things in common. Both died doing something...
During their all-too-short lives, Tanner Jeans and Joshua Williams never met. But they had several things in common.
Both died doing something they loved.
Tanner, 7, died June 23, 2004, when his bicycle collided with a pickup truck near his Snoqualmie Ridge home. Joshua, 16, was a sophomore honor student at Skyline High School in Sammamish. He was snowboarding Jan. 21, 2002, when he fell off a 30-foot cliff and died.
Joshua and Tanner each played multiple sports; each had a terrific sense of humor.
Their memories live on in more than their immediate families. In both cases, friends established memorial foundations in their names.
Eastside youths are benefiting from those foundations, which are run by volunteers.
Today, almost a year after Tanner’s death, the Tanner Jeans Bike Rodeo will be held in Ridge Community Park. The Tanner Jeans Memorial Foundation and the Snoqualmie Police Department organized the event.
Tanner Jeans Bicycle Safety Rodeo: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. today, Ridge Community Park on Ridge Street, Snoqualmie Ridge, Snoqualmie. Free.
Tanner Jeans Memorial Golf Tournament: Second annual. 10 a.m. Oct. 24, TPC Snoqualmie Ridge, Snoqualmie. Cost to be determined. Information: 425-396-4572 or www.tannerjeans.org
Joshua P. Williams Foundation: Third annual golf tournament and dinner auction. Celebrity golfer in each foursome. July 12, Plateau Club, Sammamish. Multiple levels of participation available, starting at $250. Information: www.jpwfoundation.com
There will be a bicycle-safety course, free ice cream, hot dogs, T-shirts and free bicycle helmets for children who need one.
It isn’t the only project the group funds. The family and foundation organizers hope to award a Tanner Jeans Scholarship in 2015, the year he would have graduated from high school.
These things don’t come easy.
“Nothing could happen that makes up for an accidental death of a child,” said Debbie Williams, Joshua’s mother.
It took convincing from gentle, persistent friends for the Williams family to even agree to the foundation. The family has been humbled by the community response.
Since it was founded, the Joshua P. Williams Foundation has given $265,000 to youth charities, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of King County, Athletes for Kids, Young Life, Friends of Youth and Camp Sambica.
These foundations aren’t unusual.
Similar ones have been established for years in memory of students, teachers and school administrators. The Northshore Scholarship Foundation, which administers many memorials in Bothell and Woodinville, recently handed out close to 100 scholarships.
Mary Waggoner, spokeswoman for the Issaquah School District, said dozens of memorial scholarships are presented each year, but there’s no central clearinghouse or way to track numbers or the amount of money given.
Both Tanner’s and Joshua’s foundations, like countless others, represent much more than money. Parents who have lost a child say the grief and pain are so intense and long-lasting that it’s like a wound that never fully heals.
“The one fear you have is people will forget about him,” said Tanner’s mother, Christen Jeans. “It means so much when you’re sad and depressed. We were so touched when a neighbor, Laura Gibbs, called two days after Tanner was killed and asked if it was OK to start a foundation.”
One goal, in addition the academic scholarship, is to pay for sports camps for kids who can’t afford them.
“Tanner loved and lived for the sports camps,” Jeans said. It just gives you hope for the future and makes me feel good to think other children will benefit.”
It isn’t just children in the community who benefit. For Joshua’s family, working on the foundation has helped everyone heal. His sisters, Bizzy, 16, and Anna, 15, have developed philanthropy and volunteer skills through the foundation as they work with the beneficiaries.
Jeans is pregnant, and she and husband Brian, who also have a 6-year-old son named Hayden, are expecting another son in August.
“I wish Tanner were here,” Jeans said. “He would think it was so funny how big my tummy is getting. He loved making fun of me.”
The pregnancy and the foundation have given her hope for the future, Jeans said. Once your child is gone, it helps to have something good come out of it.
She was silent a moment.
“I’d rather have him back,” she said.
This column wasn’t easy to write. I know Tanner Jeans’ paternal grandmother. I have a grandson six months younger than Tanner who was severely injured in an auto accident. The semi-truck that broke Gareth’s femur came within inches of killing my adult son.
I worked in the newsroom the night Joshua Williams died and had to write about his death. There wasn’t even the proverbial six degrees of separation. Joshua was good friends with the son of a dear friend of mine. The story was painful to report, and I cried as I wrote it.
Another death last month prompted this column.
Graham Scott lived with his parents a few doors from our house. He was older than my children and never was part of their circle. Graham also was autistic.
He was always polite, nodding a greeting in passing. When my husband was doing yardwork, Graham would stop and have long conversations with him. For a brief period, Graham and I both worked out at the same gym.
With Graham, his nods were the equivalent of an effusive greeting. Particularly in the gym, where I was a complete klutz and his workouts were obviously more productive than mine, his brief acknowledgement kept me lifting weights.
He suffered a cardiac arrest in a neighborhood grocery store and died.
Intensely private, he would have been embarrassed at the thought of a foundation or fund-raiser in his name. His parents, Barbara and Jim Scott, came up with a beautiful solution.
“In lieu of flowers, a random act of kindness in Graham’s memory is suggested,” they wrote in his obituary.
In its own way, that is also a foundation. For it is both the planned and the random acts of kindness that bind us into a neighborhood, a civilized people and a nation.
May our own memorials be as lasting.
Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633