It was the most unthinkable tragedy, the type of news that even lifelong Blufftonians say they have never had to endure.
On March 5, 2021, Bluffton native Dwon “DJ” Fields was shot and killed while driving his car on the Bluffton Parkway. The 17-year-old Bluffton High School senior was a beloved member of the community, a teddy bear heart in a linebacker’s body wearing No. 55 for the Bobcats football team.
So many of us were left wanting to do something – anything – to ease the family’s pain. With the blessing of his parents, Dwon Fields Sr. and Kema Bryant, a scholarship fund was created and a community-wide day of giving was held on May 5, just two months after DJ’s death.
More than 50 restaurants and businesses gave donations or a portion of their day’s sales. Those funds, combined with cash donations and matching donations, raised more than $52,000 to seed the Live Like DJ Scholarship Fund.
“It was just such an unbelievable outpouring of love. Nothing will replace the loss of our only child, but to have the community give back so much to honor DJ, it was just amazing,” Bryant said. “He was just such a people person, a listener, a giver. … And we want to spread that spirit with this scholarship fund.”
The second annual DJ’s Day of Giving is set for Feb. 24 this year, the 55th day of the year. Once again, businesses are giving a portion of their day’s sales, headlined this year by Burnt Church Distillery, which will be donating a portion of sales from the Night in Harlem fundraiser Feb. 24.
The family is working with the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry to manage the scholarship fund, which will give scholarship to students in Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton counties, with the aim to give lasting support to the kids who need a little extra financial support to both get to the college starting line and the finish line in earning their degree.
“DJ fought so hard to be an honor roll student,” Bryant said. Most scholarships available have a 3.0 GPA requirement to qualify, but this fund’s minimum GPA is set at 2.5 for a reason. “So many kids fight for those grades, start slow but finish high school strong or might be excelling but hit one or two snags that knock that GPA down. We know DJ would want to honor that fight and reward that work.”
There will be a silent auction and a raffle to win a two-night stay at Montage Palmetto Bluff (a $2,000 value). In addition, there are giving boxes placed throughout the community for donations, with boxes at Riverwalk Animal Hospital and Ruff Cuts in Okatie and Pulseology Fitness Club in Bluffton. The family is also selling special edition T-shirts for $15 to give folks another way to contribute.
“Every little bit helps. We want to give these scholarships for many generations to come, as long as the community is behind it,” Bryant said.
For a full list of participating businesses and details on how to give to the fund, visit djdayofgiving.com.
Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.