Two years ago, Erica Reith died in Kalamazoo, Mich., at the age of 19. A non-functioning warning light, needing only a $2 fuse, resulted in her car being hit by an Amtrak train from Chicago.
The death of Eri, a graduate of Lincoln School and OPRF, had a huge immediate impact on hundreds of people, as evidenced by the nearly 200 cars traveling with her from Pilgrim Church to Queen of Heaven Cemetery. And even today, the warmth and support of so many friends and strangers continues to amaze.
Reflecting on the past two years, beyond the incredible pain and huge sense of loss, reminds us that death doesn't mean the end. Eri continues to have a significant impact on so many people, especially children.
Because she was an organ donor, more than 60 people have been positively impacted by her death, including a 60-year-old and a 14-year-old who can now see through Eri's eyes.
Because of her death, a 14-year battle to revise a dangerous series of train crossings between the Western Michigan and Kalamazoo Community College campuses has been won.
Roadwork began in March to make the area much safer for drivers and pedestrians.
Because so many were touched by Eri's life, the Erica Reith Fund was established at the Fifth Third Bank on South Oak Park Avenue.
Eri was passionate about children, especially those less fortunate, so it is natural that children be the focus of her fund.
Over the past two years, the fund has assisted many children, primarily at Lincoln School, with everything from field trip and award luncheon costs to summer pool passes for a newly arrived family. (This was the most difficult effort as the park district wouldn't accept the check and terribly embarrassed the family in the process.)
Reflecting on the past two years has been painful, but also eye opening.
At her memorial service, we asked everyone, "In Eri's memory, do more to help the poor, the disabled, the homeless and, most special to her, the children." And we've seen the wonderful results!
Even with so many in need, love can be spread with only a small effort. And don't forget to become an organ donor!
Our thanks to all the wonderful people in the villages, friends and strangers alike.
And for those struggling with loss, there are many wonderful support services that do help, as well as some excellent web sites to visit, especially www.groww.org.
The family of Erica Reith