First came tragedy, followed by great love.
When a hit-and-run car accident killed 14-year-old Grace Hanson Sulak on May 7, friends hurried to organize a vigil at Bluffton High School. More than 200 hundred people sang, prayed and rounded the school’s track in remembrance of Grace and to support Andrea and Emma Dewey, a mother and daughter who were injured in the same wreck on I-26.
The outpouring of love for the two families has continued.
Grace, Emma and Andrea were travelling home from a Bluffton High School track meet when the accident occurred, and much of the support has come from the families’ sports and school affiliations.
The community’s response has been “wonderful and overwhelming,” said Heidi Hanson, Grace’s mother.
Supporters brought meals to both homes. Andrea Dewey said dinner is taken care of through the end of this month. She and her daughter are healing from their injuries, but recovery is expected to take months.
Friends started raising money immediately. The Sulaks’ Gofundme.com page last week showed more than $17,000. On the Dewey’s page, 366 people gave $26,000 over 23 days.
On May 21, more than 250 people sweated their way through a Crossfit843 workout at Bluffton High School, where the goal was $10,000 for the families.
Proceeds from the Pizza & Pasta Palooza Sunset Party May 20 went to the families, as will money raised by the Bobcat Scorcher, a 5K race in Hampton Hall set for Aug. 20.
While the Dewey family will use the money for medical bills, the Sulaks are creating the Grace Hanson Sulak Memorial Scholarship Foundation. The first scholarship will be awarded next spring, family members have said.
The Run for RET, to be held over Labor Day weekend on Hilton Head Island, also will raise money for Grace’s scholarship fund.
“The scholarship will go to a student who is a runner and has the qualities of kindness, compassion and quiet leadership that Grace radiated,” Hanson said. “This is about who she was as a person.”
For the Sulaks, love came in the form of Galen and Gina Miller’s white and green t-shirts with Grace’s portrait; Roberto Rodriguez’s wooden crosses for Bluffton High and May River High; the nearly 1,000 people who came to their daughter’s memorial service; school fundraisers; a car wash; collection points for shampoo and other household necessities; and a memory tree at River Ridge Academy.
For Andrea Dewey, her spirits have been buoyed by balloons twice lining the streets of the Woodbridge neighborhood where both families live, a fixed dryer, members of the Church of the Cross and Lowcountry Community Church; boarding and training for their dog “so he won’t jump on us,” and donation buckets outside Bluffton Youth Sports concession stands.
“People have been amazing,” she said.
Carol Weir of Bluffton is a career journalist and teacher.