Writer Rebecca Zaner
Photographer Michelle Perry
Things won’t always turn out as you hoped or planned, but if you seize opportunities, act diligently and fairly, and show goodwill toward others, you’ll enjoy a full, rich life, unburdened by regrets.”
These words were once spoken by Amy Bennett, a spirited, talented and full-of-life young woman who passed away two years ago in a tragic accident. Shocked and heartbroken, Amy’s family and friends were left to pick up the pieces and endure a life without their beloved Amy.
“Amy had a special zest and passion for life,” Amy’s mother, Pat Bennett, shares of her daughter. “When I think of Amy, I think of her spunk, laughter and joy — everything was joy. She was a true example of living life to its fullest.”
Because of Amy’s optimistic spirit and love for life, her family founded the Amy Bennett Foundation, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) tax-deductible organization, shortly after her passing, to continue Amy’s dreams and keep her memory and spirit alive.
“Our family was sitting around the living room planning her celebration of life, and the idea just came to us,” Pat says. “We have all these ideas floating around, and we feel that Amy would want us to do this and is directing us right now as it’s happening. She would love what we’re doing.”
“It’s a way to pay forward her love for life,” adds Terry Bennett, Amy’s father.
Amy was killed in a collision with a truck as she biked to her job at the Jackson Hole Playhouse in Jackson, Wyoming. One mission of the foundation is to lend support to biker protection advocacy, already achieved in Wyoming. Currently, 25 states have passed a three-foot bike law to maintain at least a three-foot separation between vehicles and bicycles.
“Wyoming is where Amy was hit, and we strongly believe she would still be with us today had this law been in place,” Pat shares. “Wyoming had turned down this law for 16 years. It became our mission to pass the law especially in that state, which we finally achieved with the passage of Wyoming’s House Bill 0085, ‘Amy’s Law.’
“Wyoming became the 25th state to pass the three-foot bike law. We still have many more states that need this law passed, and we plan on seeing it through so that no one else has to endure what Amy did. Our sincere hope is that no more lives will be lost due to unnecessary accidents like Amy’s.”
Also, to continue Amy’s joy for the arts and theater, the foundation created a scholarship fund to enrich the lives of youth and college performers who share Amy’s passion for the arts.
“We have chosen various organizations to sponsor through our scholarships,” says Terry, “including the International Thespian Society, in which high school seniors can audition for a scholarship at a conference where universities gather to watch the auditions and promote their programs.”
Amy’s alma mater is the University of Northern Colorado, which also benefits from the Amy Bennett Foundation in the form of a scholarship each year to a musical theater student.
“It is important to our family to sponsor this university because Amy was there,” Terry says. “It was her dream school.”
Other art organizations the foundation lends its support to include Starlight Community Theater, which Pat co-founded and where Amy first performed; Dynamic Motion Dance Academy, for which the foundation matches their $500 scholarship each year; and Jackson Hole Playhouse in Jackson, Wyoming, where Amy was struck while biking to the theater to perform.
“We love to help these organizations that are connected to Amy,” Terry says. “I hate to say it’s exciting and fulfilling because it hurts so badly, but the byproduct is certainly making a difference.”
New and upcoming scholarships include Arts Council of the North Valley and a namesake foundation scholarship.
“We’re launching our own scholarship this year that will be a national opportunity for students to submit performance videos to us online to win scholarship money,” Pat shares.
Those who wish to support the foundation can do so in various ways. Visiting the foundation website provides a direct link to donate money for scholarship funds. There is also a specific account set up at MidFirst Bank in Anthem, where supporters can walk in and make a direct deposit donation. Their fundraising goal this year is $10,000. Those wishing to hold fundraisers to benefit the foundation may also do so by contacting the board.
“Yes, of course it’s hard for us without Amy,” Pat says. “Some days it hurts so badly. But we do this because people need help. It’s not about being the best, it’s about passion, dedication and sharing joy. Those are the qualities we look for because those are the qualities that Amy had.”
The efforts of the Amy Bennett Foundation are monumental in implementing change to keep bikers safe. Donations are highly encouraged to help the Bennett family fight for laws that could save a number of lives.
In Amy’s words: “Keep reminding yourself this: everything is exactly how it should be. It’s all about the discoveries, growth, decisions, hardships and successes along the way that make our lives even more fulfilling and beautiful in the end. Love yourself first and do what brings you joy. You only get to live once so live it!”