WYNDMOOR, Pa. (WTXF) - Under the bright, beaming sun - and the added warmth of family and friends – 9-year-old Mya and her 6-year-old brother sully are preparing for a big day honoring their dad's memory. It's their first Father's Day weekend without him.
“He was a very fun dad, very nice and funny,” chuckles Mya.
Hundreds of people paid tribute to Michael Hensley, of Glenside, Pa., a local business owner and a volunteer firefighter for 37 years. 30-year-old Jack Lyons was also honored at the event. Lyons died suddenly.
Organizer Joe Spause says, “They’re two guys who embody what brave hearts and strong minds mean.”
The children of these two men are this year's recipients of the 5th Annual Tom Reilly Brave Hearts for Strong Minds walk, which will help send these kids to college.
Mya expressed her appreciate, “Thank you for supporting me through a time that has been hard for me.”
Mya’s Mom, Megan, shares, “[It’s a] huge relief for us. When you have an income parent taken from you, there's a financial strain.”
The event is named after Deryn Reilly's father, Tom. He died unexpectedly 5 years ago, leaving her mom to care for and support four children under the age of 10. The situation inspired Deryn's Uncle Joe to create the non-profit organization: Brave Hearts for Strong Minds.
Reilly said, “Honestly, this is one of the best organizations there could be because it really helps people get through a tough time.”
Spause adds, “It gives us a unique opportunity to turn grief into joy.”
“To see everybody come together 11 months after my husband passed is a nice tribute to him,” Megan Hensley said.
It’s a tribute that also provides emotional healing.
Mya tells us, “It helps a lot because we all have something in common and can talk about it and feel more comfortable.”
And – there’s a strong emphasis on paying it forward. Next year, Mya and Sully will help raise funds for future families dealing with similar loss.
Spause explains, “We tell them [recipients] to come out, enjoy the day, celebrate dad and their loved one - and next year - pay it forward and run it in their honor.”
If there's a family that you would like to nominate for the Brave Hearts for Strong Minds dedication, click here to reach out to the organization!