INDIANAPOLIS — Samaria Blackwell’s family said the young woman simply loved life, and she wanted to share that passion through helping others.
The 19-year-old never had the chance to fulfill her dreams of becoming a police officer, but that didn't matter to the law enforcement community, who stepped up in a big way, to show their support.
“They just come in from all over the place,” Blackwell’s dad, Jeff said looking at a pile of police uniform patches. He continued, “There’s just stacks and stacks.”
Patches were sent in from around the state, the country and even the world. Each single patch — is a way the law enforcement community near and far showed their love for a family grieving an unimaginable loss. The loss of a 19-year-old with dreams of joining the ranks.
“Words, they're hollow. They don't express true feelings to the level they need to be expressed. Thanks-- it is such a gracious and benevolent thing that they did. It was very, very kind,” Jeff said.
Samaria – also known as “Stitches” – her family said, was born to help others. She was named after the Good Samaritan. Her parents said their daughter grew into her name.
“She cared for other people. And she had a desire to help and serve and see other people do better,” Jeff said.
Days after the FedEx mass shooting last year, Avon Police put out a social post, asking for their brothers and sisters in blue to send a patch in honor of Samaria.
“We just thought that on behalf of the profession, this was an opportunity for us to step in and really connect with all of our partners across the country to show a level of support for this family,” Avon Police Deputy Chief Brian Nugent said.
More than 500 agencies responded.
"Samaria was not an officer. We will say that again and again and again. Samaria was not an officer, her desire was to be a police officer. But that community, and we've guarded ourselves, they were so lovely, so outpouring, but we had to, had to guard it because she did not wear the uniform. She did not serve, but they embraced us, they took us in as their own. And they've treated us as family -- the entire time,” Samaria’s dad, Jeff Blackwell, said.
Often the patches did not come alone. Letters and notes came with them many times – all of it is now housed in a scrapbook.
Another way the law enforcement community is honoring Samaria is through a memorial scholarship in partnership with the Central Indiana Police Foundation.
The foundation's Executive Director Lisa Rollings said a retired metro officer came to her with the idea.
“Samaria was not an officer," Jeff Blackwell, Samaria Blackwell's father said. "We will say that again and again and again. Samaria was not an officer. Her desire was to be a police officer. But that community, and we've guarded ourselves, they were so lovely, so outpouring. We had to, had to guard it because she did not wear the uniform. She did not serve, but they embraced us, they took us in as their own. And they've treated us as family -- the entire time."
The first two recipients were hand-picked by Blackwell’s parents, Jeff and Tammi Blackwell. Both Chloe Endsley and William Schmitt are receiving the $500 scholarship to go towards their respective criminal justice degrees.
“All I can say really is thank you," Endsley said. "I am very blessed and honored and it really means a lot to me and my family."
The 18-year-old is a senior at Plainfield High School and will attend IUPUI to major in Forensic and Investigative Sciences. Her inspiration, she said, is her dad who is a school resource officer.
Schmitt is currently studying at IU Bloomington and soon will apply to the IU Cadet Program.
“I look up to her and her story as a role model for me and just being able to apply and win this scholarship in her honor means a great deal to me," Schmitt said.
The Jasper native said his desire to become an officer stems from a long line of family members — like his father and cousin — involved in the field.
“I think her story is one that needs to continue to be shared," Schmitt said. "Like I said, I mentioned her as a role model, not just for myself but for all young kids, young high school and college students that are thinking about a career in law enforcement and are wanting to be service to their community."
Samaria’s story, Schmitt said, may have been cut short, but it is a story he strives to carry on and one Endsley said she will too.
“Even though she’s not here on earth with us to live out her dream, I still think she’s going to be an asset to law enforcement community moving on," Schmitt said. "Watching over and protecting all law enforcement from up above."
"It's bittersweet. I miss Samaria so much and am heartbroken that we don't get to see her live out her dream of becoming a police officer," Samaria's mother told WRTV in a text. "We're so grateful for Lisa Rollings and the CIPF for giving us a way to honor her. I know she would be thrilled as we are in helping someone else fulfill their dream."
The second round of the Samaria Blackwell Memorial Scholarship will open back up in the fall of this year. To learn more, click here.
It is a love the Blackwells said they continue to feel from a community their daughter never had the chance to become a part of and love, they said, is what Samaria would want us all to do.
“Love is the greatest thing that she leaves us. Just love each other because the days are evil and time is short,” Jeff said.
The Blackwell family is setting up a foundation called "Samaria's Legacy." Their first event will be held in Garfield Park in June. Samaria was a lifeguard there. Her foundation will in part, provide scholarships for kids to enjoy activities like swim or art lessons at Garfield Park.
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