Grant to assist the Foxborough High School Class of 2015 in building a garden in memory of their classmate, Sam Berns.
By JEREMIE SMITH
As graduation day approaches, the Foxborough High School Class of 2015 plans to give the community a meaningful gift inspired by their dear friend and classmate, Sam Berns, who passed away from progeria in January 2014.
Needing approximately $15,000 to build a garden and walkway with benches and a plaque at the Sam Berns Community Field, the graduating class recently received a $5,000 grant from the Partners in Patriotism Fund, which will assist in the cost of materials and labor needed for the project.
“We are very grateful of this donation,” said Class of 2015 President Kayla Sepe. “A lot of people have stepped up to help us and the Partners in Patriotism Fund’s generosity will help us do so much with the landscaping and maintenance needed for the garden. I’m very grateful for their support.”
Foxborough High School senior Brian DeVellis, who helped spearhead the class gift with Sepe, class adviser Kristen D’Errico and class officers, Meggie Maguire (vice president), Lauren Sampson (secretary) and Timothy O’Toole (treasurer), said these funds will help the class incorporate more elements into the project.
“Almost half of the money we raised came from the Partners in Patriotism Fund, so we can use this money to build the garden, benches and maybe add a flag pole and bird bath,” DeVellis said. “We can make this project go from good to great.”
Sepe said the garden and walkway should be set in time for graduation on June 7, but the project likely won’t be completed until a few weeks after.
“We don’t want to rush the project,” Sepe said. “We want to make sure it’s done right and everything is done as well as it could be.”
After learning of the project, the Fund’s Grants Committee was thrilled to support the Class of 2015’s efforts.
“When we heard about this project, we knew it was going to be something very special to the Class of 2015 and a very nice gift for the community,” said Jimmy McGowan, chair of the Fund’s Grants Committee. “Sam inspired and influenced so many of us and it’s touching to see his classmates want to further his legacy and positive outlook on life through this garden. We are thankful to the Kraft family for giving us the funds to contribute to this project and know it will be money well spent.”
Grants Committee member Margaret Chaisson, who was Berns’ Cub Scout leader for several years, said she thought this project was a perfect fit for the Partners in Patriotism Fund to support because of Berns’ positive outlook on life and his impact on his classmates, the town, the Kraft organization and beyond.
“I am especially pleased to support this project, as it was created by his classmates,” Chaisson said. “I think it is impressive that high school students are learning how to get organized and how to get things accomplished – life lessons that will serve them well. I think the garden will be a beautiful reminder for the entire town of many inspirational Foxborough residents: Sam, his parents, Dr. Leslie Gordon and Dr. Scott Berns, who continue their tireless work with the Progeria Research Foundation, Sam’s classmates, whose desire to honor their friend was so widely supported and the legion of community members who worked hard to build a turf field in town.”
While resident Livia Binks never had the opportunity to meet Berns, she found him and his legacy to be one of the main reasons she applied to serve on the Fund’s Grants Committee.
“His story moved me and equally so, the outpouring of love this town showed in supporting him and his family, both in the months and days leading up to his passing and after,” Binks said. “The idea of a garden to surround the fields – all in honor of his memory and his optimistic outlook on life – felt like such a natural complement to create a place of joy for everyone to come and experience, whether through physical sports on the field or quiet watching from the garden.”
Sepe said she hopes the class gift will give testament to Berns’ character and values as members of the community walk onto the field for years to come.
“I think this is something our class had to do because Sam meant so much to us and we want to make sure he is remembered,” Sepe said. “We just thought our class gift should be something that makes sure his legacy lasts in this community and on the field named after him.”
She added the project will help tell visitors what Berns meant to Foxborough.
“The main goal is when people walk into the entrance of the field, they get a sense of Sam and who he was,” Sepe said. “I think having a plaque and a garden at the field named after him, and adjacent to the school where he left his legacy, is a nice way to do that.”
For DeVellis, the project establishes a lasting legacy of Berns with meaningful input from his classmates and friends on how it should be done.
“Sam was a member of our class and we all grew up with him for so many years,” DeVellis said. “But 10 years from now, 20 years from now, people might see the name on the scoreboard, but we were the ones that really knew him and have a true understanding of who he was and what he stood for. We thought this gift was perfect for our class to give to this community.”
In addition to the Partners in Patriotism Fund donation, the Class of 2015 raised more than $6,000 on its Go Fund Me account (http://www.gofundme.com/t4ycew) and received many contributions from the community, including concrete and labor donated by Chris McNamara, owner of C Mac, Inc. and a plaque of Berns, donated by John Ricker, owner of Morse & Beggs Monument Company.
“We just want to thank everyone in town for their support,” DeVellis said. “Everyone doing their part made this project happen, so we thank you for the generosity. A big thank you to Sam’s family, too, as they were very supportive throughout this process and helped us out whenever we had questions.”
The Partners in Patriotism Fund, established by the Kraft family in 2014, has awarded more than $40,000 in grants to a variety of Foxborough-based organizations and community initiatives. The Fund’s Grants Committee, comprised of Foxborough residents, meets on a monthly basis at Gillette Stadium to review and vote on grant applications it has received.
Other grants recently awarded include:
- $5,000 to the Foxboro Recreation Department to assist in funding the construction of dugouts at the Payson Road athletic complex.
- $2,000 to the Foxborough Founders Day Committee to assist in funding the cost of the Founders Day Fireworks.
- $2,000 to the Friends of the Boyden Library to assist in funding the town-wide Children’s Foxborough Reads program based on the children’s book, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” by C.S. Lewis.
- $1,500 to the Foxborough Public Schools to send three Ahern Middle School students to the program, “Envision the Future – a STEM Program” offered at Bridgewater State University from July 20-24.
- $660 to the Foxborough All Night Graduation Party Committee to assist in the cost of gifts purchased for the Class of 2015.
Additionally, the Grants Committee has awarded nearly $11,000 in personal assistance grants.
Serving on the Grants Committee in 2015 are Binks, Chaisson, Arthur Jewett, Charles Liftman, McGowan (chair), Thomas Murphy, Mark Powers (vice chair), Carolyn Rehill, Mike Stewart (secretary), Jenna Strickland and Cindy Venuto.
For grant applications or more information about the Partners in Patriotism Fund, please visit GilletteStadium.com/Partners-in-Patriotism.