Seventh Annual Forever 56 Banquet Shows Unwavering Support to “Do Good” in Face of Adversity

Marie Perry, Communications Director for the School District of Belleville

The Forever 56 Crew: Kerri Muehlbauer, Jason Eyler, Betty Wolf, Andrew Eyler, Laura Eyler, Korey Trainor, Brenna Meier, Chris Meier, Kristin O’Connor, Bailey Eichelkraut, Tony O’Connor, Peggy Hicks, Steve O’Connor, Sherry O’Connor, Karen Durni, Mike Krawczyk, and Connie Krawczyk. There are many other volunteers not pictured here! Photo courtesy of Renee Eichelkraut


After attending the most recent Forever 56 Foundation giving event, Belleville High School Counselor Stephanie Way shared, “The outpouring of love and support for the O’Connor family and the community was unbelievable!  There were so many local families, teachers, school staff members, and alumni that attended the event.  It was an amazing night that raised a lot of money for scholarships, local organizations, and students!”

Way’s words are echoed by many who continue to gather yearly to “do good” in honor Eric James O’Connor– the seventeen-year-old Belleville student and outdoorsman who died in a car-related ATV accident in July of 2017.  The Forever 56 Foundation’s banquet offers many a way to turn this tragic loss into a positive experience, and it is meaningful for the loved ones Eric left behind.  Between those who donate to the cause, attend – or do both – it offers a night to come and show their love for the O’Connors, Eric, and the community they share.

Giving back to one’s community is truly what the Forever 56 Foundation does as it keeps Eric’s memory close.  Belleville Elementary Principal and attendee Kelsey Schmit observes the strength of the local community after seeing the 7th annual banquet unfold this year.

Schmit notes, “It honestly is so evident and strong after these functions.  I see people attend the event that I see daily and people that I haven’t seen since the banquet last year.  We are all coming together to support the O’Connor’s and bring a little good to Belleville and the people who live, work, and enjoy life here.”

She feels that people are always so giving and generous and it is easy to see that we are better together as a community.  For her, it feels good to be a part of something that is making a difference in her local community.

Kelsey acknowledges, “I was more than happy to buy a ticket, raffle tickets, and purchase items at the event that all go to a good cause.  There is a lot of work to put on this event which is fun and also benefits our community.”

From the perspective of someone who has helped the Forever 56 Foundation get off and running, Belleville High School secretary and community member Betty Wolff is also excited to see such community involvement in its seventh year.  The non-profit organization in memory of Eric has accomplished what it set out to do through caring helpers and supporting partners.  It takes a lot of helping hands to put on the banquet each year, and this one at Edelweiss Chalet Country Club was no different.

Wolff notes, “It is so marvelous to sit and watch all the volunteers working together to create a fun-filled evening so all people have a great time for a great cause.  I have volunteered to be one of those workers for the last seven years.  It has been my absolute pleasure to give my time to such a worthwhile organization.  The Forever 56 Foundation has done a wonderful job of spreading kindness to our students and for other families who could need an extra ray of sunshine.”

For Eric’s dad, Steve O’Connor, Forever 56 represents his love for his son bestowed upon the community he lives in and, through the help of his “Forever 56 Crew,” Eric remains ever-present in their family’s life.  At the end of this year’s banquet, Steve was thankful – closing with these invaluable words:

“This is what we have been able to do because of your generosity in Eric’s memory.”

The Forever 56 Foundation will undoubtedly do a lot of good with the proceeds from this 7th annual banquet.  The O’Connor’s are a wonderful example of making a positive difference for their local community in the face of adversity.  A lot of good has been done in memory of their son over the past seven years.