Silas Orion Fund
Est. 2021 by Lani Rosen-Gallagher and Chris Gallagher.
It was a snowy day in 2020 when Zephyr Gallagher turned his shovel into a sled and zipped off down the hill. He gave it a name – schleddling – and soon kids were sliding down the hills of Common Ground’s NatureYear classroom – the 20 acres of woods along West Rock Ridge State Park in New Haven. He came home that day bursting to tell his parents all about it.
“He was outside in the elements, learning, finding ways to create his own fun, having a great time with his friends,” says his dad, Chris Gallagher. “It was everything we’d want for him.”
Common Ground High School, Urban Farm and Environmental Education Center has been part of Zephyr’s life since he first attended a nature camp there. Now, as part of its NatureYear program, the fifth grader spends four days a week in his public school and one day in the outdoor classroom: learning the ways of the seasons, how to grow vegetables, build a campfire and care for animals - something he’s so good at, he’s become known as “the chicken whisperer.”
It’s such a beautiful way to learn, say Chris and Lani Rosen-Gallagher. So, in 2021, the couple created the Silas Orion Fund to provide financial support to families whose children might not be able to take part in Common Ground programs.
The Fund honors their first son, Silas Orion, who died shortly after his birth in 2008. “We had this loss in our lives that was so challenging and so heartbreaking,” Lani says. “We planted a tree in East Rock Park in honor of Silas and we called it our family tree. But we knew at some point down the road we wanted to honor Silas in a new way.”
After talking with staff at The Community Foundation, the Gallaghers decided that establishing the fund was fitting on so many levels. “Silas’s name means `of the trees,’ Orion is the constellation,” Lani says. They’ve always been an outdoor family, camping with Zephyr, who now leads them along hiking trails he has discovered.
They wanted other children to find this same kind of joy and they wanted to give back to the communities of New Haven and Hamden who embraced and supported them so fully after the loss of Silas. “We want as many children as possible to have access to these learning experiences,” Chris says. “We want Common Ground and NatureYear to be around for a very, very long time.”
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