Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Vitale turned the tragedy of her father’s death into a thriving nonprofit that honors high school senior girls’ relationships with their own fathers. Inspired by being awarded a scholarship for those who lost a parent during her senior year of high school, Vitale was motivated to establish her own scholarship during her freshman year at The University of Iowa. However, she added her own unique twist and chose to recognize young women who truly understand the significance of their current relationship with their fathers. Joining Iowa JPEC gave her the resources she needed to use her scholarship to impact the lives of students, allowing her to give back in her father’s name for the past 13 years, awarding over $23,000 in scholarships to 43 young women.

In her senior year at Lyons Township High School, Vitale was awarded the Donald P. Travis Scholarship for outstanding accomplishments through the loss of a parent by Donald’s daughter, Lisa (Travis) Dunning. Lisa stayed connected with her and during her freshman year at UI, Vitale “fed off Lisa’s generosity and created The Father-Daughter Scholarship In Memory of Richard J. Meyer, my father whom I lost to cancer in 2001 when I was sixteen years old.”

While Vitale says Iowa JPEC played a role in helping her grow the scholarship, it was created before she ever enrolled in an Iowa JPEC course. As she began gaining the skillset to properly maintain the scholarship from Iowa JPEC classes, she started fundraising by mailing letters to family friends. Vitale then developed the knowledge and drive to host small annual fundraisers. She says, “Negotiation classes through Iowa JPEC empowered me to secure donations from local businesses.”

As the scholarship began to grow, Vitale’s entrepreneurial spirit prompted her to turn it into a business. Today, The Father-Daughter Foundation In Memory of Richard J. Meyer exists as an active 501(c)(3) nonprofit, granting scholarships to young women who write essays or create videos about the relationship they have with their fathers.

One of the focuses of the nonprofit is staying in touch with scholarship recipients. “It isn’t hard to want to stay in touch with these intelligent, motivated, and compassionate young women who adore not only their fathers, but their families,” Vitale says. Often, the connection goes much deeper than the scholarship. “I have stayed in touch with a handful of recipients and I look forward to reconnecting with the rest in this next year. I firmly believe more opportunities to help will come by reconnecting with all 43 recipients.”