Tragic death of Declan Sullivan at Notre Dame creates a surprising legacy


Declan’s sister emailed Horizons to set up a meeting. The family found out that Horizons rented its space from Old Saint Patrick’s, of all places, and that several of its founders and its executive director graduated from Notre Dame.

The unsolicited donations to the family and money from friends and acquaintances went into the fund, which they gifted to Horizons, which added 40 children to its fold and doubled its fund-raising and tutoring efforts. They held a joint fundraiser that raised $600,000.

“I feel pretty good about it,” Barry Sullivan said later, inside the Horizons offices, near a poster of all the children in Declan’s 40, which organizers hope will become Declan’s 80, then Declan’s 120 and on and on. “And it’s O.K. to feel good about it.”

For Father Jenkins, Notre Dame University’s president, Sullivan’s death, and his family’s response to it, proved no less than transformative. He says they “took loss and grief and transformed it into something else, something generous and worthwhile.”

“To have them at the national championship game, after the dark day of Sullivan’s death, to see their generosity and healing, it will touch so many people.”