After raising more than $760 in donations for a playground as a tribute to his best friend with cerebral palsy who died in May, Connor Herrero is continuing to generate donations for Carly’s Clubhouse in Pelham.
The 8-year-old at Valley Intermediate School is not stopping in his mission that honors his best friend, Connor Jacobs, who died on May 3 before their dream of playing at Carly’s Clubhouse could come true.
“He was happy that they raised so much money, but he realized there is so much more to go,” his mother, Ashlea Herrero, said in an interview today.
She helped to create a GoFundMe web page for her son to collect more money for Carly’s Clubhouse, which is a donor-funded endeavor aimed at providing children of nearly all physical capabilities an area where they can play together.
“We’re so far away from our goal of $800,000 that we have to do something,” his mother said, noting the total amount needed for the playground. “Connor was very happy with all the money that he raised and that all his friends participated in … but I don’t think we realized how far away that goal of $800,000 was.”
His initial fundraiser asked students at Valley Intermediate and Valley Elementary in Pelham to donate $1 to wear a hat on a specific day. With the GoFundMe page, found at www.gofundme.com/x3hma5n, he can continue to pay tribute to his friend and achieve the dream of creating Carly’s Clubhouse.
Together, they were known as Connor H. and Connor J. While Connor J. was non-vocal, Connor H. had a dream for both of them: They would one day play at the Carly’s Clubhouse specialized playground.
“We loved each other as much as the universe could take. Basically we just could not be separated. The day I heard about when he died, that’s when it struck me our hearts are too strong to be broken. I just really miss him and I’m sad that he’s gone,” Connor H. said before an assembly last month following fundraisers at the two schools.
Their story has attracted national attention with People.com posting an article on June 12 that has generated more than 15,000 Facebook shares.
“I didn’t think it would go this far and be this big,” his mother said.
Dustin Chandler, the driving force behind Alabama’s legislation known as Carly’s Law that’s named after his 4-year-old daughter with a rare neurological disorder, said the story of the two Connors exemplifies his vision for Carly’s Clubhouse.
“It’s not only wanting to play together — a non-verbal disabled child wanting to play with an able-bodied, typical child — it’s not having anywhere to go, and that is the reason Carly’s Clubhouse needs to happen,” Chandler said in an interview today.
“Bringing those two kids together on an equal playground and learning from each, that is the vision of Carly’s Clubhouse,” he said. “We want our children to understand these principles that we can help each other and learn about each other.”
The Carly’s Clubhouse movement has generated about $40,000 in donations so far, but that’s not discouraging Chandler and other supporters. “Raising $800,000 is not easy, but what you’re seeing in this Connor H. and Connor J. story, that’s the reason we’re doing it. … That’s the point of having community fundraising,” he said.
Ashlea Herrero knows the effort is important to her son. “We have seen Connor’s family several times this summer. He still talks about Connor. He says, ‘I just miss him so much, Mom,'” she said.