Nearly six months after Hurricane Sandy devastated the Long Island landscape, locals are still pulling together to support one family who is turning their own devastation into something that can help people for years to come.
On April 5, more than 300 people packed Napper Tandy’s in Smithtown to raise money for the Specht family of Sound Beach – whose 22-month-old son drowned in a backyard pond one day before the big storm hit – by backing their ReesSpecht Life foundation.
According to a family spokesman, On Oct. 27, 2012, the Specht’s son Richard Edwin-Ehmer, nicknamed Rees, had wandered off while his father and a friend were tying down furniture ahead of the storm. They found him in their pond, and despite their attempts to perform CPR, the boy died.
“After the ravages of Sandy had left the island, the Specht family had to bury their youngest child while dealing with no power and limited phone contact with family and friends,” said Dave Ryan, in a statement.
At the fundraiser, organizers raffled off TVs and other electronics to help fund ReesSpect Life, a local organization set up by the family that asks people to spread generosity in the community.
The idea for the foundation came when after the tragedy Kelly Brothers Landscaping of Coram showed up at the Specht family’s home – Rees’s father Richard Specht is science teacher at Great Hollow Middle School in Nesconset, and his mother, Samantha Specht, is a German teacher at Smithtown High School East – and filled in their pond and landscaped their property, refusing to take payment for the work.
The Spechts have since created business cards inscribed with this pledge that they ask people to hand out when they commit acts of kindness:
“Through the tragic loss of our 22 month old son, we vow to make the world a little better in his name. Let’s all work together and do the small things that make a big difference. Our little boy’s life was brief,but we hope to make his legacy eternal. We all possess the ability to do something super: Possession of this card is a solemn promise to pay it forward and perform a random act of kindness and be one of Rees’ pieces.”
A picture of Rees dressed in a Superman costume is printed, like an emblem, on the cards, and according to organizers, many people left Napper Tandy’s last week with pockets full of these.
“While nothing can ever bring our son back to us, we are comforted in knowing that there are people making others happy and building memories in Rees’ name – and we are confident that this will continue and Rees will live on through the kindness of others,” said Samantha Specht.