FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Some local families have been paying it forward after receiving their own helping hand.
The VanDuzer Foundation has helped 116 families during their time of need over the last 12 years.
Two of those families ended up creating their own non-profit organizations.
Now, Scott VanDuzer, who owns Big Apple Pizza in Fort Pierce, is holding a fundraiser for those two non-profits to help them continue to serve the community.
Lilly Beauchamp says for her family, a tragedy years ago sparked a new purpose.
“There’s a positive that can come back from a negative,” Lilly said.
On March 26, 2012, her 9-year-old son, Aaron Beauchamp, was killed in a school bus crash in St. Lucie County.
“We have good days and bad days and some days it’s easier than other days to talk about it,” Lilly said.
After Aaron’s death, Lilly and her husband Simon wanted to find a way to honor their son.
They turned to VanDuzer for advice and guidance.
“Think about what you really want this to be about, those words, those were exactly the words,” Lilly said.
Aaron loved soccer, had great grades and enjoyed art.
So, the Beauchamp family created The Aaron Project, raising money to give students scholarships, give money to art teachers and give money and gear to soccer players.
“What was Aaron about? Aaron was about arts, athletics, and academics, and that’s what our Aaron Project is about,” Lilly said.
They’ve given scholarships to more than 100 students.
But, it all started with a fundraiser at Big Apple Pizza. “That was like the launching pad,” Lilly said.
Stephanie Cunningham’s life changed after her husband was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive and deadly form of brain cancer that he is still fighting.
“A couple of years ago, it was more of self-pity. Why me? Why my husband? Why these other families? But, I think that’s answered now by a bigger person, bigger energy, that this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” Cunningham said.
She contacted VanDuzer during a time of need to help raise money to pay some mounting medical bills.
“I was really surprised by all the people that came out not even knowing who we were, but heard of the situation.”
Nearly a year later, she created a non-profit organization called the B.R.A.I.N Cancer Foundation of the Treasure Coast.
"You want to know how can I do this for somebody else, how can I help? That’s how honestly the non-profit originated.”
Her non-profit created a cancer database where she works to collect local information about local cancer cases. She wants to help identify areas that might have higher occurrences of different cancers.
Money raised goes toward environmental testing, supporting the database, and helping families in need of battling cancer.
“In order to test, we need people to self register their cancers so we know where the problem might lie,” Cunningham said.
Now, VanDuzer is holding a fundraiser to help the Aaron Project and the B.R.A.I.N Cancer Foundation of the Treasure Coast keep helping their community.
“I think it’s nice to come full circle and come back to where we started from,” Beauchamp said.
“Just do a good deed. Pass it on,” Cunningham said.
The Fundraiser is Wednesday, August 28 from 4 PM to 10 PM at Big Apple Pizza in Fort Pierce, located at 2311 S 35th St.
Learn more about the Aaron Project and how you can support it here.
Learn more about the B.R.A.I.N Cancer Foundation of the Treasure Coast and how you can input cancer information into the database here.