Goshen News, Goshen, IN

February 7, 2012

Mother donates funds to the Crossing in memory of her son


ELKHART — Sherrie Lovely knows what it means to lose a troubled child, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to see that others are spared that awful experience.

As one way to show that dedication, Lovely made a stop at the Crossing Educational Center in Elkhart Monday morning to present the school with a $25,000 donation, which will be used to establish a scholarship fund at the school in memory of her son, Michael Lovely. Michael was a 2010 graduate of the Goshen Crossing and was a veteran of the Afghan war. He committed suicide in October 2011.

“We’re just really appreciative of the fact that Sherrie Lovely has recognized the influence, the impact that the Crossing Educational Center has had on Michael’s life,” said Crossing Executive Director Rob Staley upon receiving the $25,000 donation. “After this tragic accident, Sherrie gave us a call and said, ‘You know, Michael mentioned many times he really wanted any resources or anything to go back to the Crossing if anything should ever happen.’ And she was faithful, and said she wanted to honor Michael in that way. And so she called me, and said she was receiving some money from the military, and that she’d like to help the Crossing prevent — and this is the key thing — to really prevent this from happening in the future with other kids.”

In listening to Lovely talk about her son, it is not hard to see the positive impact the alternative school had on Michael’s life during his high school years.

“Michael struggled with a lot of different things. He lost his father at an early age, and was struggling in school,” Lovely said, noting that Michael first attended the Crossing during his sophomore year following a difficult freshman year at a private Christian school in Marcellus, Mich. “He reached out, we both reached out in faith, hoping that the Crossing would steer him in the right direction. And that’s what the Crossing did. It taught him to give back to the community. It taught him to put forth an effort in his studies, and he flourished as a student. He had a lot of friends, and it helped him to understand what life was about.”

Michael’s move to the Crossing was not an easy one, however, requiring the family to work through some very tough emotional and financial issues in order to make the transition work.

“After I lost my husband, it took a stay-at-home mom and put her out in the work field. So not only did they lose their father, they lost their mother too,” Lovely said. “I worked three part-time jobs to try and make ends meet, and so the kids had a lot of feelings of hurt and abandonment and things like that.”

Unsure how she was going to pay for another private school on her own, Lovely said she sat down with Michael one day to discuss their options, and a solution soon presented itself.

“Michael and I prayed about it, and talked about it, and I said ‘I know this will be a good fit for you, but we’re just going to have to step out on faith and believe that God’s going to provide for us, because I have no idea how we’re going to do it,’” Lovely said. “And we both agreed that if he could pay for half of his tuition by working at McDonald’s, he would just have to ride a bike until we could find some kind of vehicle or something for him.”

And that’s just what he did for several months, riding his bike to school even during the winter months, attending classes all day, riding home, and then working at McDonald’s at night to pay his share of the tuition. And not only did he make the tough situation work — he made it look easy.

“He was the first student who showed up, he was never late, and he didn’t miss a day of school,” Lovely said. “Michael really enjoyed the Crossing and what they had to offer.”

When asked what it is about the Crossing that impresses her so much, Lovely immediately pointed to the strong sense of dedication and caring shown by the school’s teachers.

“They really get involved with the students, and they actually mentor the kids,” Lovely said. “And I know that they put a lot of their family life kind of aside just to be there for the kids. I think a lot of the kids that come here come from broken homes or single parent homes or just homes that aren’t doing very well, and the Crossing actually takes them in and makes them their own child. Michael just felt like he belonged here, and he really did. They really took the time to be a family for him.”

Lovely said it had always been a dream of Michael’s to go into the military after high school, and that’s exactly what he did. Following his graduation from the Goshen Crossing in 2010, Michael enlisted and was stationed with the U.S. Army at Fort Campbell, Ky., where he was placed with the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, B Battery 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

“He was a young man who loved to play with fire,” Lovely said with a laugh. “He wanted to be in the military. He wanted to be around making bombs. He wanted to be around loud noises, explosions. That was something he’d wanted to do from a young child.”

War changes things

It was that time in the military, highlighted by a tour in Afghanistan from January to April 2011, that would forever change Michael, however.

Over time, Lovely described how she watched helplessly as the transition back to a civilian life began to take its toll on her son. And on Oct. 30, 2011, while still stationed at Fort Campbell, Michael took his own life.

“He was not the same,” Lovely said of her son upon his return from combat. “It just seemed like he had lost that boyish joy of life.”

Following Michael’s loss, Lovely swore to herself that she would do all she could to ensure that other families with troubled youth are spared the same fate.

So, when the call came from the military indicating she would be receiving a significant monetary sum following Michael’s death, Lovely immediately thought of the Crossing.

“I wanted to make the donation because I really feel that it is something that would help other parents to be able to step out on faith and say ‘I know this is where my child belongs, but I can’t afford to send my child,’” Lovely said, “‘and maybe it will turn my child around so that I won’t have to worry about losing them in some tragedy.’”

As a single mother, Lovely admitted that donating the $25,000 check to the Crossing may be hard for some people to understand given her tough financial situation. Even so, she said she’d do it again in a heartbeat if it meant she could make a difference in another child’s life.

“Faith is something that puts forth an effort,” Lovely said, “and I really believe that God will return that 10-fold to these students.”