Shining onWritten by Julie Rubini | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In the film documentary “Darius Goes West,” the subject, Darius Weems, his body wracked with the obvious symptoms of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, looks into the camera and says, “Just do what you can…and always remember to live your life to the fullest if you don’t have that long to live.”
Wesley Shook did not have muscular dystrophy. He did, however, live life to the fullest in his short 19 years.
His parents, Kris and Tom, are doing what they can to celebrate their son’s life, and to encourage other young people to follow the dreams that Wesley never had a chance to fulfill.
In the early hours of June 8, 1999, the day after Wes’ death from a tragic accident at Maumee High School that involved moving the football goal posts to a practice field, and making contact with an electrical wire in the process, Tom and Kris were determined to celebrate his life at his funeral, as well as memorialize him in such a way that other young children would benefit in his honor.
“We’ve had incredible support from family and friends since the beginning, including many of Wes’ friends offering their own tribute at his services, including writing a song, titled “Keep Shining On,” Kris, the administrator of the Goerlich Center for Alzheimers said, with tears in her eyes.
Wes and his younger brother Tyler pursued different passions. Tyler played soccer, and continues to follow his love by working for a soccer organization in Portland, Ore., as well as coaching three youth teams and a high school team.
His older brother, even though he had a quieter personality, was drawn to the stage and the bright lights.
“Wes was dramatic from an early age, acting as though he was injured when tiring from playing soccer when he was little. He went on to act in nine different plays, including junior and senior high productions, as well as in The Rep and Village Players productions. He performed twice as a stand-up comic, and he could do “voices.” One of his favorite routines was to voice various characters as though they were on the Titanic, including Forrest Gump,” his dad offered, mustering his best imitation.
They established the Wesley Shook Memorial Scholarship Fund through the Toledo Community Foundation. Since 2000, 11 Maumee High School students who wrote a required essay expressing their interest in pursuing a career in the visual or performance arts have received a grant of $1500 to help offset college costs.
Several of the students have shown great progress in their field, including 2004 graduate Elizabeth Servais, who is performing with the traveling production of the Broadway show, “Wicked.”
“The scholarship isn’t necessarily based on academic achievement, as Wes wasn’t an A student. Yet, he could memorize an entire script, including all of the character’s lines within hours,” Tom, a recently retired Maumee High school science teacher said.
To assist in sustaining as well as increasing the scholarship funds, the Shooks staged a fundraising event at the Maumee Indoor Theatre last year.
Many area businesses and friends contributed to the success of the event. Tom and Kris thought it would be a great idea to share a movie with attendees.
On Aug. 16, what would have been Wes’ 30th birthday, Tom and Kris flew out to Portland and joined Tyler for a family remembrance. They spent five hours that day walking the beach, sharing, grieving and recalling the son and brother they continue to love and miss.
Now 10 years after Wes’ death, the Shook family moves forward.Kris is assisting Alzheimer’s patients and their families, Tom is aiding families in his new position as curriculum and business development officer with the YMCA Storer camps, and Tyler is encouraging students in their love for soccer.
They are doing what they can, and our world is a little brighter for it.
For additional information about the Wesley Shook Memorial Fund, visit www.toledocf.org.
Julie K. Rubini is founder of Claire’s Day Inc., the author of the recently published children’s book, “Hidden Ohio.”
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