Purdue FOP, student sorority help children, make couple's dream come true

November 24, 2009 Jim Bush

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue University Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 136 and a campus sorority are helping give back to the community in a Christmas project spurred by a tragedy.

Last February, Julie Sennott and her fiancé, Michael Dunlap, were in a vehicle with another couple when they crashed in wintry conditions on Interstate 65. Sennott and the other woman were killed.

Sennott was a caseworker for the Indiana Department of Child Services, and Dunlap was a Tippecanoe County juvenile probation officer.

Following Sennott's death, Dunlap began a toy drive in her memory to provide gifts to Tippecanoe County children who had been through the legal system as children in need of services.

"He knew how much these children meant to her and wanted to honor her, so he set up this foundation," said Coleen Hamrick, executive director of Tippecanoe County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) agency.

And then in April, little more than a month after the fatal accident, Dunlap died. Now, the effort is being carried out in both their memories.

The CASA agency will be able to provide a gift to all of the children involved in the CHINS - Children in Need of Services - program through donations that have already been made. Hamrick said there are enough funds from the Julie Sennott and Michael Dunlap Foundation to provide these gifts, so she is not seeking toy donations. However, if people would still like to donate a toy or money, they can do so, she said.

To help the program, Purdue's Fraternal Order of Police is collecting donations of wrapping paper; the university's sorority chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta, will use money donated to CASA for the drive to buy gifts. The sorority also will have a gift-wrapping party on Dec. 1.

"Julie and Michael did so much for children in the community, and it's our privilege to honor their memories in this way," said Purdue police officer John Goetz, who is leading the FOP's effort.

Goetz said the FOP is seeking donations of wrapping paper, bows, tape, nametags and other supplies for wrapping presents. Those wishing to donate can bring items to the Purdue Police Department, 205 S. Martin Jischke Drive, any time, day or night. The drive will run through Dec. 4.

The national Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority is involved with CASA agencies throughout the country and encourages its chapters to work with the local CASA programs. Purdue's chapter has sponsored various fundraisers, including a grill-off that takes place each year.

The sorority needs boxes of all sizes, including those that will fit blankets or bracelets. They can be dropped off at the Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority, 607 N. Russell St. For more information, call 248-840-8783 or 248-265-3819.

"They do a great job," Hamrick said. "I'm just appreciative for anything they do.

"We do want to give our sincerest thanks and gratitude for the help we are receiving to do this and for the donations that came in for us to buy these gifts and make Julie and Michael's dream come true."

Writer: Jim Bush, 765-494-2077, jsbush@purdue.edu 

Sources:   John Goetz, 765-494-8221, jcgoetz@purdue.edu

                  Coleen Hamrick, 765-423-9109, chamrick@tippecanoe.in.gov