We were incredibly honored to have the opportunity to help Riley Howell’s family launch the Riley Howell Foundation Fund in these past few weeks. Riley Howell will forever be known as as the 21-year-old hero who courageously stood up against a gunman at the University of North Carolina—Charlotte campus, saving the lives of several students.
We serve 1-2 pro bono clients each year, and we are proud to say one of them is the Howell family. We worked alongside them and Status Forward to create an amazing website showcasing the beautiful life Riley Howell led and to raise awareness of the Fund’s launch through national and local public relations outreach.
In memory of Riley Howell, the Riley Howell Foundation Fund has been established at The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina (CFWNC) with the intent of supporting families affected by gun violence. Initial advisory board members will be Natalie Henry-Howell, Riley’s mother; Scott Pritchard, his uncle; Kevin Westmoreland, the father of Riley’s longtime girlfriend Lauren; and friend of the family Rachel Feichter.
On April 30, 2019, Riley was in class at UNC Charlotte. Seven minutes in, shots rang out and in a split-second decision, he chose to try and disarm the shooter. In the service of protecting others, Riley was killed. Riley was posthumously awarded the Civilian Medal of Valor from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department for his actions as well as the Reserve Officers Training Corps Medal for Heroism from the United States Army Cadet Command.
The Riley Howell Foundation Fund will provide financial support to charitable organizations that serve other victims and families affected by similar tragedies, both those in immediate need and in an ongoing capacity. That need can take the form of grief counseling, funeral expenses, domestic care, as well as longer term health and wellness coverage, among many other services.
The advisory board is currently curating a list of initial recipient organizations that align with its mission and values. It plans to announce these organizations in July 2019.
“I didn’t intend to give Riley to the world, but now that he belongs to everyone, we hope his willingness to put others first can be an inspiration,” said advisory board president Natalie Henry-Howell. “His altruistic nature was fundamental to his character. If thinking of Riley sparks any one of us to reach out and care more about others, to help rather than be indifferent or cause harm, then his legacy can be remarkably meaningful.”
“We were so blessed to have Riley in our lives for the time that we did,” said advisory board treasurer Scott Pritchard. “He was the rare person who just made everything more fun. In his honor we want this foundation fund to do some good in the world, to comfort grieving families with support like we’ve received after this tragedy.”
“You knew Riley was nearby because you could feel the energy in the room change for the better,” said Kevin Westmoreland, the advisory board’s secretary. “He was passionate about whatever it was he wanted to do, whether it was hiking, cooking, or planting bushes. His passion was infectious. And if someone near him needed his help, he was there in an instant. No thought about how it would look, or whether he should ask permission. He just helped.”
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