MANATEE -- Two families linked by tragedy are teaming up to raise money for others in need this holiday season.
The Emmons and Wright families, founders of the Taylor Emmons Scholarship Fund and Payton Wright Foundation, respectively, each created nonprofit organizations in honor of a loved one. Their mission: to help other families and youths in need.
Beginning in December, the families will sell Christmas trees and handmade wreaths under a massive tent inside the Cooper Creek Retail South Plaza, 8440 Cooper Creek Blvd., off University Parkway. All proceeds will benefit the foundations.
The Taylor Emmons Scholarship Fund was created in the wake of the 19-year-old's death in 2010. Emmons, a former student-athlete at Out-of-Door Academy in Lakewood Ranch, died after being hit by a car near the University of Miami campus in Coral Gables, where he was a sophomore. The fund was set up to award four-year scholarships to students who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend The Out-of-Door Academy.
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In their first effort last year, the Emmons Fund sold hundreds of wreaths and raised $19,000, of which $10,000 was donated to All Faiths Food Bank in Sarasota. They are hoping to double that amount this year with the help of the Wrights.
"We've become friends and we really have a lot of the same goals and ambitions to help kids," said Mike Emmons, Taylor's father.
The Wrights created the foundation after their daughter Payton was diagnosed with pediatric brain cancer at age 4. On May 29, 2007,
5-year-old Payton lost her fight against the disease. The foundation raises funds to help families pay their bills and other expenses as they struggle with pediatric cancer. The Wrights have already given away $60,000 this year.
"They reached out to us to partner with them and it was a great opportunity," said Patrick Wright, Payton's father. "It was an opportunity for us to help them out and for them to help us out. Anything we can do to help other foundations and spread awareness of what they're doing, Holly and I are ready to do."
Six months before Taylor died, Mike Emmons purchased 9,000 acres of Maine timberland. Acting upon a concern from Taylor that too many youths in the U.S. need assistance, Mike Emmons came up with an idea to ship clippings from his trees to Florida to sell as wreaths to raise money for ODA and other non-profits serving youths.
The academy has adopted the Taylor's Trees program and Mike Emmons wants to conserve a camping area for kids.
The trees and wreaths go on sale starting Dec. 1 through Dec. 16. The location will be open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Sundays. A total of 220 trees and 1,000 wreaths will be available for sale. Emmons said trees will be competitively priced while wreaths cost $60 each.
"The reason we're doing it, to put it in a simple phrase, is to help kids," Mike Emmons said. "We can help kids be able to achieve things they wouldn't be able to without our help."
Wreaths can also be purchased on the Taylor Emmons Scholarship Fund website at www.temmons.org. There is a $14 charge per wreath for delivery.
For more information, call 941-915-9249.
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams