By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Andrew “Drew” Stevens, a preschooler at Parker Road Preschool in Shrewsbury, passed away unexpectedly in his sleep in April 2012. Although he had had some health issues, his passing was nonetheless unexpected.
The little boy’s legacy lives on as his family, friends and teachers known as “Drew’s Crew” will honor the fifth anniversary of his passing with a luncheon and fashion show, “Dress for Drew,” Sunday, May 7, at the Haven Country Club in Boylston. J.C. Monahan, co-anchor of WCVB Channel 5’s “Chronicle,” will emcee the event.
Drew suffered a massive seizure just before his fourth birthday. From that point on, and over the course of the next year, he continued to have seizures. After many scans, MRIs and other tests, a conclusive diagnosis was never made. He lost motor and speech functions but did have some relief with immunoglobulin therapy. The cause of his passing was attributed to sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). An autopsy later revealed he had an incurable brain malformation.
Drew was originally enrolled in a private preschool but his parents, Susan and Chuck, moved him to Parker Road where he could receive care that better met his needs.
“I remember thinking, after meeting his teachers at Parker Road, how wonderful they were, not just as teachers and providers in that sense but very caring with love and attention that went into Drew’s case,” Susan said.
After Drew’s passing, his teacher, Jennifer Vangel met with his parents who wanted to do something for the school. Drew loved firetrucks. That would be the centerpiece to their endeavors. “Drew’s Dream” was established in the fall of 2012 to honor his memory, celebrate his bright spirit and revitalize his public school’s playground.
“Honoring Drew’s memory began initially with buying a simple springy firetruck [for the school’s playground] online,” Susan said.
Things quickly escalated to raising over $40,000 for the Parker Road playground which included not only a firetruck but also wheelchair accessible rubber pathways so that children of all abilities would be able to access the playground.
“It was a huge undertaking with a great team of folks who came together, [including] Angela Snell, the director of Parks and Recreation, the Police and Fire departments and Home Depot were a huge piece of this,” she noted.
Recently, a sensory garden was added to the school’s grounds.
“Kristin Stewich, our school nurse, has a passion for nutrition and healthy living and she had the idea for a garden,” Vangel explained. “With the help of a grant through the Shrewsbury Education Foundation, Home Depot’s involvement and the initial influx of funding from the first Drew’s Team fundraiser, the playground and the gardens just took off.”
The fundraising goal of Dress for Drew is $10,000 and all of the proceeds will go toward the expansion of the playground and sensory garden.
“It’s very important for us at Parker Road and the Stevens family to have wellness for our children so that they can have exercise and science enrichment and great food to pick from,” Vangel said.
The Stevens’ family also has a daughter, Chloe, 3, who will be attending Parker as well.
Fashions for Dress for Drew will be coordinated by Beth Mercer, an independent Cabi consultant and the luncheon will feature basket raffles. Sponsors include: O’Connell Fire Protection, Inc., the Stevens Family, Michelle Papper, Greenleaf Farm Developers, John Kane, Robert Fine & Associates, Cannon’s, Libertini’s, Mercadente, C&M Tool and Manufacturing, Inc., Boston Waterboat Marina, Inc., Boston Scientific and James Coghlin of Coghlin Companies. Donations for the raffle baskets include: Vangel Jewelers, Decorum, Fitness Asylum, Dunkin Donuts, Volturno, Hanover Theater, Romaine’s and many more.
Tickets for the fundraiser are $65 and a table sponsorship is $500.