The Justin Sheftel Memorial Fund & Justin Sheftel Scholarship Fund
“The phone calls started after midnight on June 15, 2005,” quoted The Morning Call newspaper.
Vacationing with friends in Ocean City, Maryland, Justin Sheftel, age 18, ran across the intersection of 77th Street and Coastal Highway around midnight. He never made it across the street. Ben Walters, also age 18, was speeding down Coastal Highway when he noticed people moving. The next thing he knew he heard something hit his windshield and he panicked. Not certain of what had happened, Ben drove on. Later, after he and his friends saw the blood and damage on his car, Ben returned to the scene of the accident, telling police that he was the driver. His blood alcohol level was 0.16, two times the legal limit.
“When something like that happens,” says Justin’s mother, Linda, “you’re not thinking clearly. But you know instinctively that you have to keep going, you have to keep busy. When grief comes over you like that, you’ll do anything to keep from going into a dark place.”
The Sheftels knew that they wanted and needed to memorialize their son. They also knew that they had to do something with the many gifts that had been given in memory of Justin. Those gifts became a charitable fund at the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation with the knowledge that the philanthropic purpose of the fund could be defined specifically at a later date.
“Establishing the fund was part of keeping busy,” Linda states, “it helps you to move forward when you’re grieving. We didn’t want to forget about Justin. We wanted people to remember him and we wanted to find a nice way to do it.”
The Justin Sheftel Memorial fund’s original intention was to provide scholarships to seniors at Parkland High School. Today, there are two funds – a donor-advised fund that provides grants to nonprofit organizations and a scholarship fund that provides awards and scholarships to students. Support for the funds comes from an event tailored for Justin Sheftel – the annual Memorial Softball Tournament. Support for the funds comes from an event tailored for Justin Sheftel – the annual Memorial Softball Tournament. In 2016, the 12th annual Justin Sheftel Memorial Softball Tournament will be held. It is an event whose energy surprises even Linda. “We’ve had wonderful community support and involvement,” she says, “this year Steve Carlton will be part of tournament, it’s very exciting to have him participate.
In addition to the tournament, Linda educates teenagers about the devastating effects of underage drinking and drunk driving on drivers, victims, and their families. Linda, Ben Walters, and Ben’s mother, Cynthia, present to students in high schools in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Approximately 100 school presentations have been completed since that first year.
“Justin was an unassuming kid,” Linda recalls. “He was quiet, but he had a sense of humor and was funny. He took honors classes, but even if he knew the answer to a question he wouldn’t raise his hand. He didn’t want to dominate. He was a good student and looking forward to attending Washington University in St. Louis, where he was hoping to play baseball.”