Upon Jason's death March 23rd, 2003 we established the "Jason Plite Memorial Fund"
( a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization) in hopes
of being able to give a gift to the
Swimming and Art Departments (two of Jason's passions)
of the Grand Ledge High School where he attended and graduated from in 1999.
The Fund did so incredibly well we felt it was imperative that we incorporate the Fund,
appoint a Board of Directors, and establish it as a charitable/non-profit organization and continue
to raise funds so that we can give out Grants and Scholarships to students in the Grand Ledge
Community pursuing further education in Art and Swimming!
We will continue to raise funds by holding an annual Fund Raising Dinner Event each April.
annual Jason Plite Memorial Fund Dinner was held Friday April 15
at the Grand Ledge Opera House. It was an evening of celebration and full of lasting memories. It was with great pleasure that we awarded 4 Jason Plite Memorial Fund Scholarships. The Jason Plite Memorial Fund would like to acknowledge Troy Anderson, Taylor Kehren, Allen Hendrick and Michael Wilson as this year’s recipients.
Troy Anderson, was awarded a $5000 Swim Scholarship. Troy says that swimming is more than just countless laps. He has learned the benefits of time management, leadership skills and dedication to a sport he loves, as well as when he plays his trombone. Troy plans to attend Michigan State University pursuing a degree in Engineering.
Taylor Kehren, was awarded a $2500 Swim Scholarship. Taylor’s dreams and determination has led her to Grand Valley State University where she plans to earn her degree in Physical Therapy. Taylor can’t wait to help others regain independence and heal properly.
Allen Hendrick, was awarded a $1,500 Art Scholarship. Allan says he is excited to be attending Northern Michigan University and pursue a degree in Film as an Editor or Director and Graphic Design. Allen loves making short films and other Art with his friends.
Michael Wilson, was awarded a $1,500 Art Scholarship. Michael believes that anything created is art – be it a T-shirt, furniture, magazine, website, packaging, etc. He hopes to help people realize this. His goal is to make the world a more beautiful place as an artist/graphic designer. A degree he plans to earn while attending Northern Michigan University.
Sean M. Cunningham, SSgt, USAF (Ret.) Pararescueman (PJ), was our keynote speaker. Sean’s first assignment was the 38
Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, GA, where he and Jason met and quickly become PJ brothers.
Sean shared stories of his many deployments until he was seriously injured in a parachute accident that nearly took his life. Sean was medically retired and faced many years of surgeries and rehabilitation. His message also included how in life you are faced with challenges and adversities, and that you can persevere through these challenges as a stronger and better person. His most profound message was the gift of how many lives one life can touch. He will be graduating this June from Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine as an Osteopathic Physician.
Special acknowledgements go out to; The MSU Air Force ROTC “Silver Eagles”, they were in attendance representing the U.S. Air Force, to post and retire the colors. “Take Note of Grand Ledge” Barbershop Quartet performed the National Anthem eloquently. Hats off to Colleen’s Cuisine who once again provided an exquisite meal. With gratitude we recognize the Opera House, Gladstone Printing and David Chapman Agency, for their continued support and behind the scenes donations that make our dinner a great success.
The Silent Auction, which helps support our endeavors, has grown and offered a wide range of wonderful items from local businesses. Cugino’s, Carrabbas, English Inn, Sun Theatre, Eagle Eye, Hawk Hollow, Centennial and Timber Ridge golf courses, Palmer Bush & Jensen Funeral Home, and Painting with a Twist, were some of the contributors. Local artists and former scholarship recipients also contributed beautiful pieces, handcrafted jewelry, pottery, paintings, and much more.
Jason, like the select few that endure, and attain the honor, of being a Pararescueman, had an abundance of talent and special qualities. The “PJ” promise to the world “That Others May Live” says it all, as Jason lost his life while on a mission to rescue 2 Afghani children, just after completing a mission that saved 3 severely injured Afghanistan Nationals. This is why we share his passion and honor him every year at this dinner, providing scholarships for the outstanding students listed above.
To date the Jason Plite Memorial Fund has awarded 37 scholarships totaling $91,000.
We would like to recognize all the family, friends and the Grand Ledge Community whom continue to generously support the Jason Plite Memorial Fund. Least we not forget the Grand Ledge Independent who graciously print all our information regarding this event and keeps everyone informed.
The Jason Plite Memorial Fund Board of Directors
Sean M. Cunningham, SSgt, USAF (Ret.)
Sean Cunningham was born in Sioux Falls South Dakota. He was raised by his mother who worked as a nurse at a local hospital, and from whom he learned a love of medicine. Sean was an athlete in high school and competed in football, wrestling and track & field. After high school, Sean had a brief trip to college, but did not stay long due to financial reasons. It was shortly after this, Sean looked to the military to help finance his education.
Sean visited the Air Force recruiter and eventually signed with the Air Force in hopes of becoming a Pararescueman (PJ). With some difficulty, Sean made it through the PJ selection course, and then through the other six schools over the two years required to become a PJ. As a PJ, Sean was stationed at the 38th Rescue Squadron (RQS) in Valdosta, GA, and at the 31st RQS in Okinawa, Japan.
Sean was deployed several times, but during his last deployment his PJ career came to an abrupt halt as he was in a parachute accident that nearly claimed his life. He was medically retired from the Air Force due to his injuries.
After 13 surgeries, and several years of rehabilitation, Sean was able to go back to college to finish his Bachelor's degree in science at the University of Texas at San Antonio. It was during that time period that Sean met his future wife and best friend, Amanda, who helped rekindle his passion for medicine. He applied and was accepted to the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine. Sean is set to graduate this coming June as an Osteopathic physician, and will be moving his family to Michigan for residency.
Sean continues to live his life by the Pararescue motto: "...That Others May Live"
Swimmer - Troy Anderson
Artist: Michael Wilson & Allen Hendrick, Dawn Peterson & Swimmer Taylor Kehren
|MSU AIR FORCE “SILVER EAGLES” DRILL TEAM|
TAKE NOTE OF GRAND LEDGE - BARBERSHOP QUARTETTE
Sean M. Cunningham SSgt (Ret.) USAF
JASON PLITE MEMORIAL FUND BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Mary Gwardzinski, Colleen Austin, Shaynah Peterson Alyssa Peterson, Dawn Peterson,
Sara Clark-Pierson, Pam George & Amanda McDonald,
Charlie, Dawn, Shaynah, Sean, Luke & Alyssa
Josh Johnston, Luke Naughton, Ryan Beckmann & Sean Cunningham
Thank you for your continued support and very generous donations. The support from our Community
and throughout the USA has been overwhelming. This is such a special way to keep
Jason's Memory alive, and to turn a tragedy into something good.
Your support and kindness is truly appreciated!
Send a tax deductible contribution to:
Jason Plite Memorial Fund
P.O. Box 81064
Lansing, MI 48908
SAVE THE DATE
APRIL 14, 2017
For additional information, send an e-mail to following address: