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2014 Second Runner Up - Essay

Shaeffer Sande

Scholarship Amount: $5,000

Hometown: Clearwater, FL - School: Vallencia College

Don’t miss your window of opportunity. Moments matter.

My Dad died unexpectedly, in August 2013, only three short days after he helped me move and get settled in for my first year of college. I was 18. Dad was the picture of health, only 61 when he had a major heart attack that ended his life.

My parents divorced when I was three. Ten years later, Dad lost his job during the recession of 2008-09, and then lost his house. Financially we never had much, but my school years were productive and meaningful.

The day of his death, I was getting used to my new surroundings, doing things a brand new freshman does when first arriving at school. But I grew concerned. Dad wasn’t answering his phone. Finally, his girl friend answered his cellphone, voicing words that immediately struck me with shock and disbelief. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but your Dad died.” Those words turned my whole world upside down. Unexpected loss of my loving Dad shook me to the very core of my being.

Dad had been outside in the Florida heat, cutting trees and grinding tree stumps at a friend’s house for money. Pain struck his heart and travelled to his arm. He called his girlfriend. She said to go to the hospital. Dad got in his car, and drove right past the hospital thinking he’d be ok. He missed his small window of opportunity for help. When his girlfriend found him at home, it was too late.

Dad did not have life insurance. He lived for today. He died with no insurance, no savings. We had to gather donations to pay his funeral expenses.

Life insurance is more important than people realize. Without coverage, grief carries added financial burden and fear. “What now?” constantly plays in your head. Families feel overwhelmingly insecure.

Don’t miss your window of opportunity for life insurance; it’s worth it’s weight in gold. It helps tremendously during a devastating time. If Dad understood the value of life insurance, he would have definitely made coverage a priority. It has become a priority of mine.

I was forced to grow up overnight when I didn’t want to stop being a kid. Responsibilities make it hard to relax. I must be exceedingly disciplined. I don’t have a clue how I’ll make it. My friends go about life as usual, wondering about buying the latest shoes and technology while I’m wondering where my next meal is coming from.

College began just days after his death. I chose not to take any time off. Dad always tried his best for me, how could I not try my best? I’m a working full time student with a double major. Love of family and confidence in my life purpose motivates me. I love people and want to use my skills and experiences to help others.

Moments matter. Be proactive. Don’t miss your window of opportunity. It may be the last.

You can help students like Shaeffer make their dream of a college education come true by donating to the nonprofit Life Lessons Scholarship fund. Donate here.

2014 Top Recipients