While looking for a civics project to help give back in the community, Kenai Central High School seniors Dacia Shier and Justice English could not think of a more noble cause then to support a Soldotna family struck by tragedy.
Shier, 18, and English, 17, have organized a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for the Trevor Cunningham family to be held from 5-9 p.m. Saturday at KCHS cafeteria. All proceeds for the event go to the Cunningham family following the death of Trevor Cunningham, 29, in a Jan. 22 single-vehicle accident in Homer.
The dinner event includes a silent auction, split the pot, raffles for prizes and games. Sportsman’s Warehouse will have sporting goods on display with proceeds going to the Cunningham family, Shier said. Ticket prices are $10 for ages 4-12 and $15 for anyone 13 and older.
Shier said about the time she was searching for a senior project for her leadership class, Trevor Cunningham’s death hit the community hard. His death left his wife, Shannan Cunningham and four children without a husband and father.
“While most projects I heard about were other students coaching or painting a building, which is great, I wanted to make more of an impact in someone’s life,” Shier said. “I have attended benefit dinners in the past and it has worked well for raising money for worthy causes.”
Shier, who will be attending Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in the fall, said she would like to pursue a career as an event planner. The organizers invited more than 2,000 people to the event through Facebook.
For use of the kitchen, the school cooks will prepare the food ahead of time, while Shier organized volunteers to cover shifts to serve people. She said through her after-school leadership class, taught by Justin Carr, she has been able to fill up to 20 positions to make the event run smoothly. Shannan Cunningham said she was amazed that two high school students put the benefit together.
“(Shier) read the story of his passing, and wanted to help me and the kids because Trevor was our sole provider,” she said. “It is amazing to me how the community has come together to support our family. I cannot put into words what that means to me.”
While they have not met in person, Shier has been in contact with Shannan Cunningham asking her how they could incorporate things about her husband’s life into the event. Shannan Cunningham along with Trevor Cunningham’s mother Debora Lee, are putting together a photo collage and slide show for the dinner.
Shannan Cunningham, who is taking correspondence classes to be a substance abuse counselor, said continuing her education has been slow going with everything she has been dealing with the last few months.
“It is a little overwhelming,” she said. “I didn’t think we would get any help.”
The Cunninghams, who were married in Homer last June, first met in 2008. She said Trevor Cunningham worked hard so she could be home with the kids. When he wasn’t working, family time was important to him; they would plan camping and snowmachine activities together, she said.
Trevor Cunningham, born and raised in Soldotna, died in a single-vehicle accident on East End Road Jan. 22. While hauling drilling mud, the commercial semi-truck he was driving flipped and the tank separated from the frame. The mechanical failure caused his truck to run off the road and ejected him from the vehicle.
Shannan Cunningham said she is thankful for the support from the community. People from throughout the peninsula have contacted her. One man from Homer tried to find the wedding ring in the field off East End Road, she said.
“It’s an eye-opener that people from all over who don’t even know me have contacted us to help,” she said.
Shier and English have gone to businesses in the community asking for donations. For anyone unable to attend but interested in helping, Shier said there is an account set up for the family at Wells Fargo under the name “Bridges Cunningham fund.”
Shier said she and English both enjoy volunteering in the community. She has served dinners at the Kenai Senior Center and helped at the Kenai River Marathon this past summer. She said while they have not set a monetary goal, for the event to be a success, support and generosity of the community is the most important thing to rally for a family in need.
“It is cool to get out in the community,” she said. “It is nice for us to be able to help a deserving family and bring people together.”