Editor's Note: This article has been updated to correct two minor errors. The Splash Party is a fundraiser with $10 wristbands for children to enjoy a wide variety of inflatable play areas, among many other activities. The party will be held June 30 at Shippensburg's Memorial Park and Pool. Also, the Greencastle 2-mile Fun Run is no longer being held. A running event will be planned in the Shippensburg area to benefit the foundation in the future. We apologize for the errors. 

Eleven years ago, an adorable boy who loved telling people, “Good morning,” in church, singing, the beach and building puzzles, was taken from this world after suffering injuries in an automobile accident while vacationing with his family in the Outer Banks.

At just 3 ½ years old, Drew Michael Taylor had touched many lives, and to this day, he continues to impact members of the Shippensburg and surrounding communities.

His parents, Marcie and Randy Taylor, celebrated another milestone in his honor on Tuesday as they opened the Drew Michael Taylor Foundation Center for Grieving Families in downtown Shippensburg. The building at 7 S. Earl St. now boasts a white stencil of Drew's likeness, and a logo featuring a broken heart, a Bandaid and a butterfly emerging in hope, a symbol near and dear to the Taylors' hearts.

“We do a broken heart activity,” Marcie explained during an open house at the center Tuesday night. “We start off with a heart and we cut it into pieces representing each member in your group. They then decorate the pieces to honor their loved ones, and put the heart back together with Bandaids. It really teaches them that once your heart is broken, it's really hard to put it back together. The Bandaids show that though the heart will never be whole again, it's still pretty good. Hope is the butterfly rising out of it.”

The Taylors formed the Drew Michael Taylor Foundation in 2006 in hopes of helping other families through the grieving process. They hold many fundraisers throughout the year, such as a Splash Party and Fun Day in Shippensburg. This year's Splash Party will be held on June 30.

The Taylors, along with their children, Lauren, 17, and Seth, 8, welcome families to the center to help them cope with their losses.

Marcie has been striving toward a building for the foundation since its inception, and now her dream has finally become a reality. They hope to hold various workshops and activities at the center to help families, especially children, honor their lost loved ones. Marcie said another dream of hers is to have a support group for grieving college students. Their support group called Drew’s Hope will still meet at Grace B. Luhrs Elementary in Shippensburg and Greencastle-Antrim Middle School.

“I've been keeping an eye out for a while for a location,” Marcie said. “We kept asking if we should be in Chambersburg or Shippensburg, but with our affiliation with the university and its social work and counseling departments, we felt it was really important to stay in the Shippensburg area. It’s also in my heart to reach out to grieving college students, so it was perfect that this space opened up. The college students can walk here if they need to, and it's easily accessible for many people in town.

Marcie's opening remarks

Marcie gave the following opening remarks Tuesday prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony outside of the South Earl Street building.

“The Drew Michael Taylor Foundation was created in loving memory of our son, Drew, who passed away 11 years ago today. While his 3 ½ years on this earth were too few for us, we are sustained by the knowledge that the good works of the foundation that was created in his name, allows him to continue to have a huge impact in this community. While we have worked tirelessly for the past 11 years through our home office and by using space throughout the community to run our grief support programs, we are so excited for the next phase of Drew’s foundation, as we open the Drew Michael Taylor Foundation Center for Grieving Families. This center has been made possible by the tremendous dedication of our family members, friends, church families and DMTF supporters, who have encouraged us, blessed us with their time and talents and financially supported this organization since its inception. While there are too many people to mention individually, we would like to thank the businesses that have helped us renovate and open this space, mainly – Chuck Bailey with Chuck’s Handyman Service , John Rhine at Shippensburg Fabric Outlet, Mike Essis at Essis & Sons Carpet One, Gerry Wilson and a great team of volunteer painters, Brian Zoeller of Zoeller Real Estate Co., Aubrey Burkholder at Commonwealth Codes for answering my constant emails, Jim Wertner from Wertner Signs, Leah Helm of SmartChoice Realty, the Shippensburg Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce for their guidance. We would like to thank those who have agreed to be Rent Angel sponsors for the upcoming year – including the Keefer family (in memory of Bill Sr. and Betty Beckenbaugh), the Gipe and Gelwicks families (in memory of Austin Gelwicks), the Friscia family (in memory of Tony Friscia), the Johnson Family (in memory of Ken Johnson) and Dugan Funeral Home and Crematory. We’d also like to thank the representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and from Sen. Alloway and Rep. Barletta’s offices who have joined us today.

“The Center for Grieving Families will house our grief and loss lending library, which is available for community use. We will run our current monthly grief support groups at this space and we plan to expand the number and type of bereavement support groups that are offered. We also envision offering community workshops, Lunch and Learn and Continuing Education Credit programs all related to grief and loss topics. While our Drew’s Hope program for kids and families will continue to meet at the Grace B. Luhrs Elementary School and Greencastle-Antrim Middle School locations, we will be able to provide activity nights here at the center for families currently enrolled in Drew’s Hope. From time to time, we also foresee grief-related art and photography exhibits in our space. We hope to collaborate with other local businesses to provide unique programs related to their field of expertise (a veterinarian could use our space to provide an informational workshop related to the death of a pet or a funeral director could provide a workshop for parents related to how to prepare children for a funeral). Our foundation has membership in the National Alliance for Grieving Children so we are always learning new ideas for grief education and support programming from hundreds of grief centers and programs around the country and world. We are very excited about the community benefit that we will be able to provide at this space. Please be assured that all activities at this location will be designed to fit our foundation’s mission of 'providing grief education and support for grieving children, teens and families.' Before we cut the ribbon, I’d like to share a quote from Lanie Blum Cogan – 'In the context of eternity, there really is no difference between a life that spans 90 years and one that lasts 5 days. The distinction is in the impact that life has on others.' We are blessed that Drew is able to make such an impact and we thank you for joining us today as we enter a new chapter for the Drew Michael Taylor Foundation. Now, let’s cut the ribbon and make it official!”

Lasting impact

Chris Johnson, one of Randy's high school classmates, had served on the DMTF board since its inception.

“Pretty soon after the accident they knew they wanted to find something positive to do in Drew's honor that would impact a lot of people.” Johnson said. “Marcie has been passionate about getting a building since the beginning. They spend countless hours thinking of ways that they can reach different types of death. There are many different stages of grief at various ages. Drew's Hope will stay at the university, but they will be able to come to the center for different events, like movie nights, which I think is one of the best things that's going to happen here.”

Johnson said Drew used to sit in front of her in church.

“I tell them on a regular basis how proud I am of them and how proud I am to call them my friends. That cute little guy sat in the pew in front of us in church. I knew they were great people who would do great things. My heart just ached for them when they lost Drew, and that's why I wanted to serve on the board, because I know they will continue to do great things in his honor.”

Helen Taylor, Randy's mother, and her husband, Harold, attended Tuesday's open house. Helen said Marcie and Randy are good at what they do, and she is excited that the foundation is getting bigger and bigger, and helping more people.

“One woman told me that this was the best place she could have gone after she lost her husband, and then her children lost their grandfather,” Helen recalled.

“I am experiencing a lot of emotions today,” Randy Taylor said. “I'm sad because it's the anniversary of Drew's death. But, I am very humbled by all of the support and am incredibly enthusiastic about the future. Marcie is just so inspiring. It's amazing to live with someone who wakes up every day inspired to help a lot of people.”

Marcie said she thinks Drew would be proud of all they are doing in his name.

“He was only here for a short time, but knowing that he can have a lasting impact on the community, that makes us proud,” she said.

For more information on the Center for Grieving Families, or the foundation, visit: www.drewmichaeltaylor.org.

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