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Johnson County Community Supports We Are Zoe STRONG Foundation

Photography Provided by the We Are Zoe STRONG Foundation

Put a group of kind, caring and motivated moms together and it’s astounding what can get done in a short period of time. In October 2017, 7-year-old Zoe Martin was critically injured in a car accident caused by a reckless driver. When news of the accident spread at Saint Francis & Clare Catholic Church & School where Zoe attended second grade, her classmates and their families showered Zoe’s mom, Laura, with support, covering her in prayer, delivering meals to the hospital and caring for the family dog. A week after the accident, however, Zoe passed away from injuries sustained in the crash.

“We knew we had to rally and find ways to honor Zoe’s memory,” says Jessica Hamilton, whose daughter was a classmate of Zoe’s.

Within a matter of weeks, a dozen moms from the school had organized an auction to raise funds so that they could place a memorial butterfly bench on the school’s property.

“It’s so Zoe’s friends have a happy, physical reminder that their classmate is still with them in spirit,” Hamilton says. “It’s also a comforting spot for her family to go sit when they need to feel Zoe’s presence.”

The auction was held at Speedway Indoor Karting where the owners donated 50 percent of the evening’s proceeds from karting to the foundation. In addition, they sold 75 silent auction gift baskets, raising more than $13,000. Everyone was humbled by the outpouring of community support. That’s when the moms vowed to do something more.

“We realized that we wanted to touch outside our school group and do things to help the greater community,” Hamilton says.

So in the spring of 2018, they created the We Are Zoe STRONG Foundation, designed to keep Zoe’s memory alive while also helping youth in Johnson County. Its purpose revolves around community.

“What started as a community for Laura grew to help the school community in processing the loss and then branched out to the greater community,” says Hamilton, an executive board member. “The We Are Zoe STRONG Foundation helps demonstrate to children that, in times of tragedy, we heal our hearts by coming together as a community.”

The Zoe Fund is a component fund of the Johnson County Community Foundation, which was established in 1991 as a nonprofit organization created to help improve Johnson County.

Zoe was a bright, sweet, caring girl who adored animals, Halloween and the color pink. She participated in Girl Scouts, excelled in school and loved playing “teacher.” The foundation created a Grants Program that seeks creative ways to improve the community. Applications are submitted in the spring and awarded in August. The board is currently in need of grant sub-committee members, so if you work at a bank and are interested in donating some time to review grant applications, contact the foundation.

“We’re excited to see who applies and what kind of fun ideas people come up with,” says Hamilton, noting that each recipient will receive a large bright pink stainless steel Zoe butterfly. “The idea is that as we give out these scholarships, folks will start seeing pink butterflies throughout the community and associate it with the We Are Zoe STRONG Foundation.”

In the past year, the board has organized a number of fundraisers, including a Skate-Celebrate-Donate party to celebrate Zoe’s ninth birthday.

“We asked each guest to bring a new unwrapped toy to donate to Riley Hospital for Children in Zoe’s memory,” says Megan Delaney, the board’s vice president of fundraising. “We had four huge boxes full of toys, along with three mamaRoo™ infant swing seats, donated.”

Each toy was labeled with a “We Are Zoe STRONG Foundation” sticker so that the foundation’s mission could spread. Next up is the Supermom Brunch to be held in May.

Zoe’s mom, Laura Martin, who will forever fiercely love her only child, is grateful for all of the community support in launching the We Are Zoe STRONG Foundation.

“Every one of the ‘We Are Zoe STRONG Foundation’ mommas have just blown me away with the people, donations and opportunities that have been (presented,)” Martin says. “Saying that (these women) are a blessing doesn’t scratch the surface of my gratitude for keeping Zoe’s life alive, showing our parish children how tragedy can be molded into charity, beautifying our parish community and keeping me spiritually alive.”

The Supermom Brunch to Benefit We Are Zoe STRONG Foundation

On May 4, the We Are Zoe STRONG Foundation honors Zoe’s mom, Laura, as well as all the Supermoms of the community by hosting brunch at O’Charley’s Restaurant & Bar at 886 S. SR 135 in Greenwood.

Pick from one of two brunch seating times: 8-8:45 a.m. or 9-9:45 a.m. and feast on eggs, bacon, pancakes, rolls and more. Moms eat free with the purchase of an adult ticket ($25). Youth tickets (4-12 years) are $8, and kids under 3 eat free.

To learn more or to make a donation to the We Are Zoe STRONG Foundation, visit wearezoestrong.org.

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