Four months after the Pickerington community learned of the death of Mike Sewell, the family of the renowned band director has established a foundation to support the programs he loved.
Several days after Sewell, a former Pickerington High School and Pickerington High School Central band director, died at his home from a heart-related incident April 15, a community celebration of his life made it clear his legacy lives on in the memories and accomplishments of his many students.
Sewell's wife, Karen, and the couple's children, Daniel, Alyson, Andrew and Lea Hope, sought another outlet to continue the late band director's call to the community – and particularly those in the arts – to serve through musicianship and by using their arts-driven talents.
As a result, the Michael D. Sewell Memorial Foundation has been established, and the family hopes to introduce it to the community during the upcoming Pickerington Labor Day Parade and Fish Fry.
"It's a way to help people," Karen Sewell said. "It's not just going to be limited to bands.
"It's for the arts. We want to make sure we help all of them."
As envisioned, the nonprofit foundation will accept donations, at least initially, through the Fairfield County Foundation, 162 E. Main St., Lancaster, 43130, or via fairfieldcountyfoundation.org.
Money donated to the foundation will be pooled. A foundation board of directors will determine how to award grants and other financial assistance to arts programs and individuals.
The foundation will support everything from Pickerington Local School District bands, choirs and theater departments to community performing- and visual-arts groups.
"It might go for something like a student in the arts who needs help with uniform fees," Sewell said, "but through the application process, they want kids to say, 'If I get help, this is what I'm going to do for the program.'
"It's that 'service through musicianship' and leadership that Mike believed in," she said.
At the outset, Sewell said she doesn't expect to have vast sums of grant money to distribute.
She said she hopes the foundation in her husband's name would help fill gaps and provide meaningful assistance throughout the Pickerington and Violet Township community.
"I see a lot of really nice potential," Sewell said. "There are going to be items like T-shirts and bracelets you can buy to support the foundation.
"There are ways to unify all the arts and to assist them," she said. "It doesn't have to be that big of a thing, but if you have that help, that is (district or parents' money) you can put back in your program for something else."
Sewell and Pickerington High School North band director Marc Parulekar said they believe the foundation will be significant both in the number of lives it will be able to affect and in upholding a lasting legacy for its namesake, who taught for nearly 40 years and took his bands to four Tournament of Roses parades, four Macy's Thanksgiving Day parades, three Fiesta Bowl parades and two Orange Bowl parades.
"Mike Sewell always believed in helping others and paying forward," Parulekar said. "The foundation is a perfect way to honor Mike and continue his work of helping students reach their full potential."
In announcing the establishment of the foundation, Sewell said she also hoped to spread word that Mike has been inurned at the Columbarium in the Memorial Garden at Epiphany Lutheran Church, 268 Hill Road North, Pickerington.
"The students, alumni and Pickerington residents can stop by anytime and visit with their band director," she said.
Sewell said she hopes those positively influenced by her husband, including former students, parents and colleagues, would support the foundation either financially or by assisting various campaigns or becoming board members.
She said the foundation would serve to honor Mike, as well as to continue his life's work.
"I just feel like we had to do something for him," she said. "It's a way for Mike to continue to help students and music and to support the arts.
"It's a way for his legacy to live on, and we want to be involved in Pickerington."