NAPLES, Fla. — A Naples mother is preserving the memory of her late son thru a special scholarship.
Laura Swaggerty will be holding an official launch Thursday for the foundation honoring her late son Justin Swaggerty.
“He worked hard and he played hard," she says. "That’s for sure.”
For Laura Swaggerty, seeing the image of her smiling son— Justin — never gets old.
“Every time my feet hit the ground in the morning, I see his smile. I do. And I will always see his smile- he had a big one.”
At 19-years-old, Justin was on the path of becoming a pilot. A devotion kick-started after his older brother helped fund a plane for an aviation school in New York.
"From the moment he got into that Cessna, he flew over New York City and said, ‘Mom- it felt like a new beginning.’ So he just decided at that moment, it was age 18, and he stayed behind to work from 18 to 19, left at age 19, and almost completed his commercial pilot’s license by age 20.”
Justin’s dream— and life— would be cut short, however, after a skydiving accident. The accident would leave not only a hole in his mother’s heart but also for those whose lives he had touched.
“His youth group, Young Life, a couple of days later did something on the beach for him and hundreds of people showed up," says Laura. "Many of them I knew, some of them were just a little familiar to me, and some I had never saw before in my life but they came up to me telling me just the beautiful stories of how Justin had encouraged and helped them. Sometimes one word can change somebody’s life.”
A Go-Fund-Me page was set up in Justin’s name. It wasn’t until seeing the amount of feedback and lives Justin had touched that his mom got an idea.
“I decided to continue that love and legacy by creating a foundation in his honor.”
It’s called the Justin Swaggerty Aviation Foundation. Inspiring young adults to build faith and achieve their dreams thru a passion for flying.
“I thought, wow, we can continue to have money pour in and pay it forward to maybe another single mother or people that just need help with their expenses, which is what happened to me. I also wanted his memory to live on. If you can learn something from a very hard situation, I think it’s a good thing. I just wanted Justin’s smile to live on, too.”
Laura says she’d like to provide a scholarship annually. But it’s not so much about the money as it is about remembering Justin.
“You can give your time, you can give a word of encouragement. From the time he was little I always taught him to be a giver and he was. I think (with) this- he would be smiling. Definitely.”
If you’re interested in getting involved in the Justin Swaggerty Aviation Foundation, you can find more information online right here.