- Associated Press - Sunday, December 13, 2015

GREENWOOD, Ind. (AP) - Ten years after a Johnson County teenager was killed in an accident, an effort by her mother and friend to honor her has grown to serve more than twice as many families as when it began.

Every year, the effort to find sponsors, collect donations and buy gifts for families in need helps Cheryl Waterman through the holiday season. December isn’t an easy time for her, since her daughter, Megan Williams, was killed in a traffic accident a week before Christmas in 2005.

But what Williams was doing the day she died inspired Waterman and one of Williams’ closest friends to start a charity in her name. Since 2006, Waterman and Rachel Cline have raised money and collected gifts for families in need. Megan’s Fund allows Waterman and Cline to celebrate Williams’ life during the days and weeks surrounding the anniversary of her death.

“It’s therapy for me,” Waterman said. “I try not to think about the years that have passed. But every year, everyone comes together to support us and help families in need. There are so many people who believe in what she was doing and want to continue those efforts.”

Ten years ago, it was difficult to imagine what the next day would be like without Megan. Now, Waterman is excited to see where Megan’s Fund will be five years from now. When Megan’s Fund started, Waterman said, she wanted to keep it going each year, even if it meant helping just one family. Megan used to tell Waterman if she could help one person then she had done what she was sent here to do, Waterman said.



“I’ve known all year, this is her 10-year passing. It is such a struggle for me to relive it; and while I miss her dearly, I want to take the positive out of it,” Waterman said. “It would be very easy to go down a dark, ugly road. But I do this because it’s such a good cause, and I couldn’t do it without Rachel. To know that we have been able to keep this alive, I look forward to where we will be in five years and how many more families we can help.”

Williams loved to give back, especially during the holidays, and loved to interact and work with kids. At Finish Line, where she worked part time in the Greenwood Park Mall, she was always working the kids section, Waterman said.

The day she was killed, Williams was on her way home from shopping for toys for families in need. Williams had been collecting money and gifts for the Children’s Bureau in the weeks before the accident through the Key Club program at Center Grove High School, where she was a junior. The Children’s Bureau provides Christmas gifts for children living in foster care and shelters throughout central Indiana.

In high school, Williams always agonized over which family to choose to help because she wanted to help all of them, Waterman said.

The year after she was killed, Cline decided to start Megan’s Fund as an extension of the work Williams was doing.

“When Megan passed away, she was helping underprivileged kids. We need to continue that,” Cline said. “Cheryl and I work together each year to carry on what Megan was doing. We’re carrying on Megan’s legacy.”

In the first year after Williams’ death, Cline and Waterman reached 30 families in need. Since then, their efforts have grown and touched more families every year.

The second year, in 2007, Cline and Waterman helped about 50 families and worked with charities, such as the Goodwin Center and the Children’s Bureau. But they also had family and friends who came forward to sponsor families in need by donating money and toys or by doing all the Christmas shopping for a family.

This year, about 80 families are being sponsored and shopped for.

Their group finds the families they help through local organizations and through Cline, who is a second-grade teacher at Pleasant Crossing Elementary School, where she asks fellow teachers to keep her informed about students and families who could benefit from Megan’s Fund.

About 40 people have volunteered to sponsor a family this year. For each family, they provide about $125 per child, Cline said.

Megan’s Fund isn’t just for children, though. The growth of the charity has allowed Cline and Waterman to provide household necessities, such as vacuums and $100 gift cards for local grocery stores, they said.

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Source: Daily Journal, https://bit.ly/1OURzAP

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Information from: Daily Journal, https://www.dailyjournal.net

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