100 Club, universities team up for full-tuition scholarships

April 11, 2013 3:41:35 PM PDT
The 100 Club of Chicago offers financial support to families of police officers, firefighters and paramedics killed in the line of duty.

Many times, that help comes with 24 hours of the family's loss, which is why the 100 Club is often called the first responders to the first responders.

Now, the group is partnering with local universities to fill in the gap for the children who have lost their parent. Graduate student Lavar Merrell, 26, is taking journalism classes at DePaul University. His father, Lieutenant L.C. Merrell, was killed in a crash on a way to a fire on April 29, 2000.

"My mom was coming at me and walking at a, not running, but walking at a fast pace coming towards me and she hugged me and said 'L.C. has been in an accident. Your dad has been killed," Merrell said.

Merrell was 13 years old.

"I show up within 24 hours and if they're killed in the line of duty, then we will give them a check for $50,000. Then, any of the surviving dependent children we will provide college education," Joe Ahern, CEO, 100 Club of Chicago, said.

In the past, the 100 Club offered some financial aid, but it recently partnered with 11 local universities to provide more than $2 million in full tuition scholarships. Leaders at DePaul say it was an easy decision to sign on.

"I think it helps represent to those families who haven't had those tragedies, who are working in the firehouses, who are working in the police districts of what they mean to us and how we need them," Monsignor Kenneth Velo, senior executive at DePaul University, said.

Thirteen years after his dad's death, Merrell says it feels good to have enduring support.

"The 100 Club, an outside organization that has no affiliation with my family, they're just there to give you support They're still there. They're still there," Merrell said.

On Wednesday, the 100 Club of Chicago is hosting a breakfast to officially announce its partnerships with the universities. The group hopes to recruit even more university participants, as well as encourage more donations to support families of the fallen.

To donate or find out more, visit 100clubchicago.org