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Akron woman raises 9/11 memorial funds

By admin Published: September 11, 2011

When Sharon Dei-trick of Akron was charged with raising $250,000 for 9/11's downed Flight 93, she chose to do it, almost literally, penny by penny.

She launched an effort called ''93 Cents for Flight 93'' that teaches children about courage and hope, and has raised $75,000 in the bargain.

''I believe that ours will be one of the most successful programs because we're going to educate today's youth,'' she said. ''We're asking kids to do a small sacrifice.''

That is one example of the local interior designer's seemingly unceasing efforts on behalf of the downed plane and one of the reasons that the Flight 93 National Memorial will get off the ground this weekend.

Thousands of people are expected to descend on what was primarily a coal mine in Shanksville, Pa., to honor the 40 passengers and crew who died trying to subvert the al-Qaida hijacking.

Singer-songwriter Sarah Mc- Lachlan will perform at the dedication at 12:30 p.m. Saturday; that night, 2,982 luminaria will be lit to recognize all of the lives lost on 9/11. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to attend the 10th anniversary commemorative service at 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

Visitors will find a white marble wall inscribed with the names of those who died on the United Airlines flight. Eventually the completed park will include 140,000 newly planted trees and 40 wind chimes commemorating the fallen.

The project is a long way from complete. The National Park Foundation, the fundraising partner of the National Park Service, is $10 million shy of the $62 million it needs to complete the first phase of the memorial by the target date of 2014.

It is the only 9/11 memorial that has not reached its fundraising goal perhaps because American attention was fixed on the disasters in New York City and Washington, D.C., that claimed many more lives.

But 78,000 people from all 50 states and 24 countries have contributed, and some of those contributions are due to Deitrick, a Canton native and owner of a local interior design firm who loves to read history books and found herself making a little of her own.

Long before 9/11, she was familiar with the Shanksville area as a midway point for meeting friends and family from Washington, D.C.

She got to know local residents when she stayed at a bed and breakfast there and called to offer her help in the early days after the crash.

Townspeople responded by asking her to be a part of the first steering committee. She didn't know a thing about fundraising, but was put in charge of raising the seemingly impossible sum of $500,000 to mark the first anniversary of the tragedy.

She and friends came up with the idea of selling 2-inch medallions inscribed with the names of the victims through companies, and were successful beyond their wildest dreams. They raised not $500,000, but $1.3 million to make the rural crash site accessible and to give it some presence.

Then Deitrick was put on the task force composed of families, park personnel and local residents who came up with the concept for how the commemoration site would look. She was the only Ohioan.

''We were the work horse for what would be given to the commission,'' she said.

That task lasted five years.

In 2007, she was named to the national fundraising campaign. Each person on the committee was charged with raising $250,000.

Friend and Akron resident Suzanne Donohoe suggested playing off the Flight 93 name by raising 93 cents at a time, and the campaign was born.

''Our idea was to reach the hearts of students by bringing the story of Flight 93 to their classrooms and asking them to do something to raise money on their own,'' Deitrick said.

She organized the fundraising through the Hope Always Lives On or HALO Foundation, which she started for her company, Sharon Deitrick & Associates, long before 9/11.

The foundation sponsored its third annual Flight 93 fundraiser Sept. 8 in Akron at, of course, a cost of $93 a person.

Along the way, Deitrick has gone into dozens of local schools, spoken about the tragedy and recruited other supporters to pursue donations in other states.

That has led to two literary projects a self-published ''graphic novel'' developed by Northeast Ohio high school students that explains the tragedy to middle school children and a new, as yet unveiled book by students at Akron's STEM Middle School that will explain the tragedy to still younger children.

Deitrick has yet to find a publisher for the children's book, but she is determined to find one.

''I'm committed to telling the story,'' she said. The Flight 93 passengers and crew ''showed what they were able to do in the face of tragedy,'' and likely saved an untold number of others from sure death if the terrorists had achieved their objective.

For details about the memorial dedication or to donate via the National Park Foundation, visit www.honorflight93.org. To contribute to ''93 Cents for Flight 93,'' visit www.93centsforflight93.org.

Carol Biliczky can be reached at cbiliczky@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3729.

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