August 25, 2004

A Gift From The Heart
Two School Girls Forego Trip To Disney World
To Donate $5,000 In Vacation Money To Clarkton Bridge

Rather than enjoy a fleeting but enjoyable moment in childhood, two Charlotte County children decided to take their vacation money and give it to a cause that will be more permanent.

Megan and Elizabeth Devin were given the choice by their father, Charlotte County businessman Bill Devin, of whether they wanted to go to Disney World or donate the funds to the efforts to save the Clarkton Bridge.

Showing a wisdom beyond their years, they chose, the latter.

So yesterday, they presented Jon Kukla of the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation with a check for $5,000. The foundation is collecting the money for the bridge repairs.

"We like the bridge," Meghan, 7, said as her sister Elizabeth, 6, nodded. "We don't want them to tear it down."

"We talked back in the early spring," Bill Devin said as he stood on the Clarkton Bridge yesterday. "We were planning a week's stay at Disney World, but when they heard this bridge was going to be torn down, they - not me - decided they had rather take a short trip to Virginia Beach and save the rest of the vacation money for bridge restoration."

He said his daughters had spent a lot of time at the historic bridge.

"We've had birthday parties and picnics here," he said. "They were really upset about it when they heard they were planning to tear it down and decided themselves to donate the vacation money to help save the bridge."

And the money couldn't have come at a better time, according to bridge advocates.

I "We have a deadline of September 9 to come up with the necessary funds to make the critical repairs on the bridge," Jack Dunavant said. "It's getting kind of close."

According to Dunavant, the initial repairs on the bridge will cost around $587,000.

"We have a gift from one donor of $225,000," he said.

In order for construction to proceed as scheduled, several bridge advocates will reportedly have to sign a contract stipulating the money will be available to pay English Construction, who will be doing the repairs.

"We've gotten orders from (VDOT Commissioner Philip) Shucet that that's the way it has to be done," Dunavant said. "We don't have to have the money in hand on the ninth, but we have to show that we have access to the money and we're going to be able to pay the contractor."

Halifax attorney and bridge advocate W.W. "Ted" Bennett said that while the deadline was approaching to raise the funds, the final figures on how much was needed weren't available until last week.

"We really didn't know how much we had to raise," he said. "The needed repairs had to be determined, designed and costed out by the contractor."

Advocates have been trying to contact large donors in an effort to raise the necessary funds, according to Dunavant, who said he's hoping the example of Megan and Elizabeth will start a trend.

"We want to get the word out to the school children that they can contribute greatly to their community by helping us raise these funds," he said.