Couple donates their house, land to Shands
Their daughter, who was 13 when she died in 2008, was born there.
Published: Friday, January 21, 2011 at 11:52 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 21, 2011 at 11:52 a.m.
Elissa and Jamie Schee have donated their Citra home and 1 1/3-acre lot to Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Their daughter Margay, who died at age 13 in 2008 when a semi hit her school bus, was born at Shands.
It is expected Shands will sell the property, appraised at $86,000, and earmark the funds according to the family's wishes.
"We are requesting the funds be used for the burn unit's children's camp and in cardiac nursing education [scholarships]," Elissa Schee said. "Margay was born there in 1995 and Jamie received his heart transplant there in October 2010."
"The gift is an example of one family's sincere desire to give back to the many caregivers who touched their lives during this journey," said Susan Barcus, Shands Healthcare chief developmental officer.
Jamie Schee, 39, who had been suffering from a heart ailment since 2007, said he felt well following the transplant.
In 2009, the family — Elissa, Jamie, Milo, 11 and Madden, 4 — moved from Citra to Anastasia Island near Saint Augustine, one of Margay's favorite places.
"The Citra residence is so empty, yet full of memories," Elissa Schee said. "It was a constant reminder — the collision occurred 22 blocks from here."
"Another parent called and said Margay's school bus had been in an accident," she said, her voice breaking as she pointed toward the former location of a wall phone in the refurbished and now empty house.
"I thought at first, ‘It's a school bus, what can happen?' Then he said it was on fire and I started to panic, but there was nothing I could do, Margay had already died," she said.
Tractor-trailer driver Reinaldo Andujar Gonzalez, 32, was convicted in May 2010 and sentenced to three years in prison for vehicular homicide and reckless driving resulting in serious bodily harm to several students.
He reportedly was using a cell phone at the time of the crash.
Elissa Schee is a founding member of the advocacy group FocusDriven, whose goal is reducing and eliminating distracted driving caused by cell phone use, and has become an outspoken critic of the use of hand-held and hands-free phones while driving.
Pictures of Margay are prominent in a video — "5500: How Many More Have To Die" — by FocusDriven that was released nationwide Thursday.
"I want people to ‘get it,' " Elissa Schee said. "If people will think of Margay and not use their cell phones while driving, then she didn't die in vain."
In the video, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2009 death toll figure of 5,500 is formed by small portraits of individuals killed in distracted driving crashes.
Margay Schee's is one of the first faces seen.
"About 15 persons per day, 105 week, 458 a month are lost in distracted driving crashes," the video states.
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