Parents Start Foundation in Memory of Daughter

Post a Comment » Written on April 4th, 2008     
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EAST GREENWICH, RI (April 4, 2008) – Robert and Katie Allyn decided to start a foundation in honor of their 21-year-old daughter, Sarah, who had died in a car accident, but were uncertain of what to do. “Then we looked at her life,” says Robert.

“She had a beautiful smile that just lit up a room, especially when she was working with kids,” Robert recalls (at right with Sarah). “She just had a passion for children in desperate surroundings.” Pictured here with Sarah.

The next steps became clear. In September they started Sarah Smiles, which has deepened connections between their suburban Evangelical Covenant Church congregation, Christ Church, and Reservoir Elementary School, a financially struggling inner-city school in Providence.

The foundation raises money for supplies the school could not otherwise afford. So far, they have raised $25,000 and have purchased equipment such as digital cameras and a digital projector.

Even more important than the money has been the relationships that develop, Robert says. The couple meets regularly with students at the school. In addition, he leads a Cub Scout pack, and Katie leads a Girl Scout troop.

The depth of those connections was evident last October when the children were thrilled to surprise the Allyns with a granite monument and a dogwood tree dedicated to Sarah. On the monument were carved the words, “Sarah smiles on the children of Reservoir.” The children also presented the couple with numerous thank-you notes written on lavender paper with matching ribbon.

The children had never met Sarah. She died in October 2006, when the car she was driving veered off the road for reasons that have never been explained. The car flipped over, killing her instantly.

Sarah had desired to help children ever since she was a child herself, says Robert. Active in her church youth group, Sarah went on numerous short-term mission trips to build homes in Mexico.

She initially attended Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where Sarah and other students launched an inner-city partnership called the Lynn Initiative. The initiative now connects more than 400 Gordon students with some 20 community organizations in Lynn, Massachusetts, to work with grade-school children from troubled backgrounds.

When she died, Allyn was a senior majoring in social work at Rhode Island College and interning with the state Department of Children, Youth and Families. She chose the internship because it gave her the opportunity to work with children in difficult circumstances.

“Obviously we still think a lot about her,” Robert says. “The pain never goes away, but God has an amazing way of making pain in your life something to bless others with.”

The connection between Christ Church and Reservoir Elementary had begun in 2004, when Meg Ford, a congregation member and former Providence teacher, started a homework club at a Hispanic church near the school. As many as 50 Reservoir students now receive individual tutoring.

Andrew Mook, son of Christ Church pastor Lyle Mook, also has organized artists to teach music and art to the students twice a week. “We try to complement each other,” Robert says. Pictured is a child participating in the first day of the after-school arts program.

Their work with the school has gone so well that Christ Church hopes to replicate the work with another school in the coming year, Robert says. “With just a little bit of effort and a little bit of sacrifice, you can make a big difference.”

The foundation was started with a 5K run that raised $10,000. Another run is planned for September 20.

For more information contact the church by calling 401-884-8632.

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