Remembering the Friends of Sullivans Island Schools

It could be a long time coming, but when people gather to successfully create change, the community eventually tells the story of those beginnings over and over again. For a fleeting moment when standing before the meeting of the Friends of Sullivans Islands Schools tonight I could see the story of their origins being told over and over again far into the future. The thought was fleeting because soon it was overwritten by the details of budgets, classroom renovations, and the incoming crop of students. The thought resurfaced later on the drive home.

Forty-eight years ago this month, Philip Hanvey, was killed in a tragic accident on Sullivans Island. Philip, then 18 years old and full of promise, was killed when the mast he was installing on a sailboat made contact with a high voltage line. Sam Hanvey, Philip’s father, was a member of the Charleston Kiwanis Club. The passing of Philip Hanvey could have been just another tragedy had the Kiwanis club not decided to change that sad story into a permanent memorial. They created a scholarship fund that is now housed at Coastal Community Foundation. Today, each student that receives an award from the fund learns about Phillip and his great potential. They also read about the Kiwanis Club. Some of Philip’s potential rubs off on them. Some of the hope of the Kiwanis Club rubs off on them too, perhaps more than today’s Kiwanis Club members realize.

Tonight at the meeting of the Friends of Sullivans Island Schools I was struck by how the parents have rallied around the Sullivans Island Elementary and how they have sought to improve on what the Charleston County School District provides. The room was full of bright, charismatic leaders from all sorts of businesses; a printer, a restauranteer, a developer, a lawyer, a banker, among others. All have experienced success and momentary failures in their careers. All are now applying what they learned to the challenges facing the schools.

Just like for the Kiwanis Club and Philip Hanvey, the Friends of Sullivans Islands Schools have created a permanent endowment that one day will be their collective memorial. The interest earned by the fund will celebrate the great potential of children. The stories told about the fund will be stories about the origin of the “Friends” and the level of parental involvement in the schools.

Fifty years from now the children of the parents I saw tonight will be asking themselves deeply personal questions about their own charitable giving. When asked how they became involved in philanthropy many 60 year-olds have said to me “It was just something my parents did, they were involved, they were there when people needed them.” In a like way, the children attending Sullivans Island Elementary today will remember that their mother served as a teachers aide one hour a week or that their father helped to organize school-wide social events. They will remember how engaged their parents were and think to themselves that they too should volunteer or give money. Afterall, it was just something their parents did.

Which would you remember most? That your classmates in elementary school were full of potential?…or that your mother or father or your entire hometown was there for you, gave up things for you, were, in short, philanthropists?

Which memory would you like to be a memory about you? Full of potential or full of charitable thoughts and deeds?


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