March 29, 2018 | Stories

Education Fund Close to $100,000 Milestone

Education Fund Close to $100,000 Milestone

When Connie O'Connor died in a car accident in 1996, not only did her family and friends mourn her loss, but her students at Sunnyslope School were also affected, and for some of these 2nd and 3rd graders this was their first experience in dealing with death.

As a teacher, Connie’s students meant everything to her, and she often shared profound stories with her mother, Joan Perreira. One day she said, “Mom if you are still around when I die, I do not want flowers. I would rather have that money for my kids.” During the past 22 years, Joan and her family have honored that wish and so much more.

A Celebration of Life has been held each year in memory of Connie, rejoicing in the time she spent here on earth with lovely stories that reflect her vivacious character—as adults, her students continue to share their memories of Mrs. O’Connor. Connie’s writings (short stories and poems) are a comfort to those who knew her, and Irish step dancing always punctuates the festivities. In reflection, Joan said, “These celebrations help ease the pain of losing her.”

In addition to life celebrations, Joan and her family created a fund to help fulfill Connie’s dreams. She always wanted to make a difference in her community and thought it was important for children to have a good start. She enjoyed sharing her creative side with her students—believing that their involvement with art and literature would excel them in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Connie lived each day of her short teaching career believing that, with a little time and care, needful children could find their true talents by finding ways to stimulate and focus their natural curiosity.

Joan established the Connie O’Connor Education Fund in 1998, transferring the fund to the Community Foundation in 2006. Since the beginning, more than $30,000 has been granted back to local schools. The fund’s sole purpose is to purchase educational materials for primary grade students in the City of Hollister. A few of the most recent grants include science equipment for Sacred Heart School, literature books for 7th and 8th graders at Southside School, and library books for Sunnyslope School. Principal, Bill Sachau wrote, “We have placed a sticker inside each library book—our students are very excited to have received this gift and are proud to carry on the spirit of your daughter.”

Each year, along with a Celebration of Life, Joan organizes a fundraiser with raffle prizes, nudging the fund closer to the $100,000 milestone. The work has been mostly a one-woman effort, but Joan's husband and children have been very helpful throughout the years. Lately, Joan has been receiving help from grandchildren folding flyers and stuffing envelopes, all the while learning about the Aunt they never met.

Follow the link to the Connie O’Connor Education Fund if you would like to help Connie’s memory live on through this very special memorial fund.