Parker resident Christy Schultz and her sister, Shelly Gibson, educate teens on seat belt awareness and bring hope to families by offering financial and emotional support when their loved one has been in a car accident. Christy’s daughter, Sammie, was involved in a tragic car accident. She wasn’t wearing her seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle. Sammie passed away the day after her 15th birthday in July of 2020. Christy and Shelly have hit the ground running and haven’t looked back.
When did your start Sammie’s Sunshine?
We had the idea to help families whose loved ones had been in car accidents in February of 2021 and started the process of becoming a nonprofit organization. We received our 501C3 in August of 2021. Our mission is seatbelt awareness but we want to emphasize that we are here to help any family whose loved one has been a car accident.
How do you spread the word about the organization?
We focus on talking to middle school and high school students. This is age when kids think they are invincible. We have been at the carnival at Sagewood Middle School and spoken during health classes at the middle school too. High school tailgates are a great way to engage with students and families and we are involved with six Colorado schools.
What impact has the organization had so far?
We have partnered with the Kaylie Mills Foundation in Texas. Five families of accident victims have been helped. Four out of the five are still alive, and three are still in the hospital. The first memorial fundraiser in Parker where classmates, friends and family remembered Sammie raised over $40,000. An adult gala will be held in November in Kansas City where we have family and Sammie’s cousins live. Her cousin, AJ, organized a meeting with 15 kids, and the students are doing everything for the event, including serving, decorating, etc. Both events have silent and live auctions and will be held each year.
I also did a video segment for CDOT on the importance of wearing seatbelts.
What is your role, Shelly?
I am the Executive Director and work directly with the families. Right now, we have a teenage girl that has been in the hospital for over 40 days. We help families with thank you gifts for the nursing staff and first responders when they don’t have the resources.
How are partnerships important?
We have partnered with schools, the Parker Police Department and the Donor Alliance. Sammie’s organs went to five different people. Honestly, all of the stories from kids who say, “I didn’t wear my seat belt before, but now I do,” are so rewarding to hear.
We know we can’t protect everyone, but we never want another family to through what we went through.
What is the hardest thing a year later?
This second year is the hardest and the tears still come. Things are getting back to normal for others, but I am still navigating my new normal. It is very hard to see kids that are now Juniors and know that Sammie should be a Junior too. The cheer world is very small, and we received tremendous support from the Ponderosa Cheer family, but also notes and gifts from Texas and all over the world. When I go to football games to spread our message, I think, “My kid should be cheering with those girls.”
What are the goals for the future?
Our ultimate goal is to never turn a family away. Eventually we want to offer scholarships to students.
We want to get more involved with schools on an ongoing basis and keep spreading seat belt awareness by training student ambassadors.
Our goal for our two major fundraisers each year is to raise over $100,000.
What is the biggest reward of serving families of car accident victims?
“Working directly with the families. We had amazing support when we lost Sammie and we wanted to pass that on,” Shelly says.