The Jeremy Herbstritt Foundation
We are a 501c3 charitable non-profit organization officially established in November 2014 in memory of Jeremy Herbstritt, a 1998 graduate of Bellefonte Area High School and 2003 and 2005 Penn State alum.
While attending graduate school in 2007 Jeremy was killed in a school shooting at Virginia Tech. Because his death was the direct result of violence, we chose to create his foundation on the basis of changing the culture of our society from one that, at times, might promote violence and a lack of compassion toward one another to one that encourages compassion, empathy and peace.
Despite Jeremy’s foundation just becoming official in 2014, since August 2007 we have been helping to put on multiple events in the Bellefonte and State College communities in honor of Jeremy.
Herbie’s Home Town Loop
This is a 4-mile run/walk, and 10-mile run, along with a pre-race dinner and silent auction, put on in conjunction with the Bellefonte Arts and Crafts Fair. All proceeds from this event will be used to help build a community track in Bellefonte.
In 2013 we donated money to help get this program up and running at Bellefonte Area High School. This was important to us because Jeremy’s life ended as a direct result of violence, and Rachel’s Challenge is a program that intends to create a culture of kindness and compassion in schools and equips students and teachers with resources to help make their schools safer and more compatible with learning. This past year we put on a shoe drive with the high school’s Friends of Rachel Club. We collected more shoes than we’ve been able to count and will be donating them to 3 separate organizations. Good quality athletic shoes will go to the MORE Foundation. Good quality shoes, boots, sandals, and loafers to Donate Your Old Shoes. And older beat up shoes will go to Nike Grind where they will be destroyed and repurposed into track surfaces or other athletic surfacing.
Our High School Scholarship Fund
Annually we award a $1000 scholarship to a graduating BAHS senior intending to pursue science or engineering at the secondary level. We ask students to write an essay explaining how running and extracurriculars impacted their high school years and how they see running especially being a part of their lives moving forward, how it might have shaped their personalities and framed certain decisions that they’ve made, how it’s guided them.
Jeremy was very big into teaching his undergraduate students how to write professionally. He felt that it was important that they know how to convey their thoughts and findings to both professionals in their fields and folks not in their current fields. So the essay is a big part of this scholarship for us. As well, Jeremy loved to run…and bike, and hike, and kayak, and really just be out in nature. He was never the best runner but he enjoyed it and, more than anything, he enjoyed the socialization that extracurricular activities offered him. He enjoyed the conversations, the experience, and the journey as a whole from high school on through college. It seems he didn’t think of running as something he’d only do in college and then move on from after that. Instead, it was a way for him to make friends and engage and participate in life. Wherever he went he joined the local running club, went out for pizza and beer with the club members, and participated in their community events. Hence, the content of the essay.
The idea of Jeremy’s Garden was born with the thought that if we as a society are somehow able to find a way to re-instill a sense of empathy and compassion in both our youth and adult community members, possibly we may indirectly discourage bullying and other acts of violence as a result.
The idea is that we will have a community garden where members of our community will come and plant, weed, and harvest flowers and vegetables. Then, they will make flower and food baskets that they will deliver to those in need (and not just financially in need, but those in need of a smile, a good laugh, a good conversation, etc.). We hope that by facilitating the interaction between a high school student and an elderly man at the nursing home (or a recent widow, a teacher or a nurse having a tough day, a waitress who hasn’t gotten a decent tip all day long) that that young man will gain not only a sense of compassion for helping out those in need and a sense of empathy for what others might be going through but he may be more inclined in the future to go out of his way to talk with the elderly and learn about their lives and listen to their stories and genuinely care. This, we believe will change the culture of our society.
We have not found the ideal spot for Jeremy’s Garden just yet so for the past two years we have planted the garden at Jeremy’s parent’s farm. We’re currently exploring the concept of a “Giving Garden”.
Funds raised from this year’s race will benefit the Bellefonte Area High School’s Agriculture Program and their school/community garden project.
***If you are interested in learning more about Jeremy’s foundation, helping us to make improvements to it, or if you’d like to help with one of our current or future projects please contact any of our Board Members:
President: Margaret Herbstritt, firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary: Stephanie Herbstritt, email@example.com
Treasurer: Joseph Herbstrit, firstname.lastname@example.org
Event Planner: Jen Herbstritt, email@example.com
Race Director: Kim Gasper, firstname.lastname@example.org