By Jack Viscuso ’21
From a young age, Chaminade junior Sean Lochner has displayed a passion for community service. He joined the Boy Scouts in elementary school and, since then, has participated in food drives and performed other works of charity with his fellow scouts. Growing up in Seaford, he attended Seaford Manor Elementary. Here, his exposure to classmates with disabilities helped shape him into a compassionate and caring young man. Ever since joining Boy Scouts and attending Seaford Manor, he has never been afraid to lend a helping hand.
Participating in the Boy Scouts has presented Sean with opportunities to grow as an individual and has taught him valuable lessons about embodying the heroic and selfless attributes that the organization stands for. As part of his journey to becoming an Eagle Scout, he was tasked with completing a service project to enhance his community in an overreaching way. While searching for inspiration, his mother told him about her dear friend, Karen Siler, a mother of five, who in 2014 founded a charity known as Karen’s Hope.
Karen’s brother Michael suffered from Down Syndrome and lived in an inimical group home. The facility neglected him of his needs and subjected him to abuse. Karen was distraught and sought a better alternative to care for him. The family luckily found Self-Directed Service, a government program that allocated a budget to each family possessing one or multiple members with disabilities. The organization enabled these families to manage their person’s adult world and to have greater involvement. Karen was pleased with the program and said, “I wanted to really embrace the self-directed programs, and, thus, Karen’s Hope, an organization that promotes independence for individuals with any sort of disability, was founded.”
Karen, a lifetime resident of Seaford, was approached by her neighbor whose house was going into foreclosure. She was able to purchase the house and decided it would be an ideal place for Michael to live. After a massive renovation, the house opened in May of 2016, as a home where “families can create a safe independent life for their loved ones.” The vision of Karen’s Hope is to empower individuals to pursue independent lives where they can prosper alongside their families’ and staff members’ support. Karen adds, “We teach them how to manage adult responsibilities, such as keeping a calendar and learning to cook, while also having them maintain jobs and attend educational and social programs.” The organization has helped families navigate “a difficult system” and find a place where their disabled ones can be properly assisted.
After researching the charity, Sean admired Karen’s work and realized it was the perfect opportunity to aid others and spark a wave of societal change. For his service project, he decided to enhance the dilapidated backyard by landscaping it with flowers, bushes, and trees, and constructing a garden. “This project is a great opportunity to do something that can make a huge difference in my community,” said Sean.
To acquire the funds necessary for the completion of this project, Sean contacted Panera Bread, a cafe chain that supports fundraising events for organizations. He informed the chain’s Massapequa location about the purpose of his fundraiser, and the reastaurant agreed to donate 20% of its sales on December 5 to funding his project. Sean promoted the event through social media platforms, such as Instagram and Snapchat, and also sent letters to his family and friends. Anyone who brought a special flyer to the cashier was guaranteed that a portion of the proceeds from their purchase would be donated to Karen’s Hope.
“The turnout was fantastic, and, although I haven’t yet received the numbers from Panera Bread, I can guarantee it was successful,” exclaimed Sean. Moreover, additional donations from family and friends totaled an astonishing $4,000.
Sean is confident that his community-enhancing project will make a tremendous difference for Karen’s Hope. Karen praises Sean for his meaningful contributions, commenting, “There is nothing better than helping others.” Sean is certainly doing just that.
To make a donation and learn more visit https://www.karenshope.org/.
Choose Karen’s Hope on Amazon Smile to donate 0.5% of your eligible purchase to the organization.