Bay Hill Family Honors Daughter’s Memory By Making a Difference
Whitney DeCarlo (Photo courtesy: Whitney Lee DeCarlo Foundation)
The DeCarlo family (Photo courtesy: Whitney Lee DeCarlo Foundation)
Whitney & Dad, Dennis (Photo courtesy: Whitney Lee DeCarlo Foundation)
l-r: Stacey, Whitney and Megan DeCarlo (Photo courtesy: Whitney Lee DeCarlo Foundation)
Bay Hill residents Andrew and Stacey DeCarlo received the news on September 27, 2008, that every parent dreads. Their oldest daughter, Whitney, had been in a car accident and was in a coma. She was only 23 years old.
Whitney lingered for ten days, but passed away on the eleventh, leaving her mother, father, younger brother Andrew and sister Megan. The family was devastated.
“Whitney was the type of person who would light up any room she entered,” says her mother Stacey. “She had a magnetic presence and a contagious presence. She made a difference in people’s lives.”
The DeCarlos decided the best way to honor Whitney’s memory was to create a foundation in her honor. “At first we thought we would set up a scholarship fund at our church,” says Stacey. “But we received so much support from our community we realized we had an opportunity to do something bigger.”
The DeCarlos organized a fund raising dinner in 2009. Through family connections (Stacey’s father was a college football coach) they brought Lou Holtz to speak. They also arranged a reunion for members of the Naval Academy’s 1964 Cotton Bowl team that included Roger Staubach. The dinner raised much more money than expected, and the family incorporated the non-profit Whitney Lee Decarlo Foundation in June 2009.
The foundation has given over $200,000 back to organizations in southwest Orange County. Their current beneficiaries included the Edgewood Children’s Ranch and Holy Family Church’s St. Vincent DePaul Society. This year they added another group: Home at Last, an organization affiliated with West Orange Habitat for Humanity that builds home for severely disabled veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Whitney DeCarlo Foundation’s long term goal is to inspire people to do more than donate money: they want people to volunteer their time and become involved. Dennis, Stacey, and their children set the example. They regularly visit the groups that receive Foundation funds and attend board meetings.
“People believe in what we’re doing and the groups we’re impacting. We want our supporters to know that their donations are going directly to the groups in need,” says Stacey. “Our motto is Passion with a Purpose.’ Whitney lived every minute of her life to the fullest. We hope to inspire everyone to do the same and make a positive impact on their communities.”
This year’s fund raising dinner takes place this Saturday, March 10, from 6:00-10:00 PM at Holy Family Church on Apopka-Vineland Boulevard in the Dr. Phillips area. Retired Navy pilot, Captain Charlie Plumb, will speak about overcoming adversity. Captain Plumb flew 75 missions but was captured on his flight and spent over 2,000 days as a POW. His story is sure to inspire all the attendees. People interested in attending the gala or donating directly to the foundation can learn more at www.whitneydecarlofoundation.com
The DeCarlos are grateful to all the volunteers who’ve helped them honor Whitney’s memory. The family are also all volunteers. Both Dennis and Stacey work and run the Foundation in their spare time. They are determined to keep it growing in Whitney’s honor
“Working on the Foundation is bittersweet,” says Stacey. “We are reminded of her loss every day. She wasn’t with us for as long as we would have liked, but we are grateful for the time we had. It is healing because I know her life made a difference.”