The Declan Drumm Sullivan Memorial Fund, buoyed by an undisclosed donation from Notre Dame, helps support Chicago area organizations such as Horizons for Youth, a nonprofit that provides mentoring, tutoring, family counseling for underprivileged children.
In addition, Notre Dame announced an endowed scholarship in Declan’s name and erected a marker near the LaBar Football Practice Fields. The memorial includes a rock with a plaque that features a shamrock and Declan’s initials. It’s the same spot the Sullivans used to meet Declan on campus. And it’s an area that Kelly walks by every day to his office.
“The loss of Declan was a tragedy to all of us in the Notre Dame family,” Rev. John Jenkins, the school president, said at the dedication ceremony. “This was a chance for us to come together in a place dedicated to his memory, to remember him and give thanks for his life.”
The Sullivans have a daughter at Notre Dame; Wyn is a junior. Her younger brother Mac, a high school senior, could be joining her there next fall. Returning to campus after the accident was almost therapeutic for her, the family said. And they all made sure to watch the Fighting Irish every Saturday this fall. The games have been enjoyable but different.
“In a way, everything is different for us. Holidays, celebrations, everything. It’s one of those events in life that changes absolutely everything,” Barry Sullivan said. “Other people have asked that question, ‘What is it like to go to a game, to be on campus, does it bring back memories?’ It doesn’t take a trip to South Bend to think about Declan. We think about him every day.
“Is it different? Sure, everything is. Is it difficult? I’d say no more than anything else might be — a little harder because you do have the memories and the thoughts about what might have been.”
Declan grew up cheering for the Fighting Irish, but Notre Dame hadn’t played for a national title during his lifetime. The year before Declan enrolled at Notre Dame, the football program was a lowly 3-9 under former coach Charlie Weis. Kelly took over a team that went 6-6 in 2009 and in three seasons returned the Irish to the top of the national rankings. Notre Dame finished this season 12-0 and will try for the school’s 14th national championship against Alabama.
“His only regret might be, if he were alive today, he’d be a graduate,” Sullivan said of Declan. “He wouldn’t be on campus every day. But he’d still be cheering for Notre Dame and happy to see them having such a successful season.”