Ian Miskelley 'Be Better' Scholarship Fund
In September 2020, Ian Miskelley, a beloved son, brother, friend, and talented swimmer, died by suicide. His family – father Steve, mother Jill, sister Chelsea, and soon-to-be brother in law Jeremiah Garcia – were devastated. To honor his legacy, they established the Ian Miskelley ‘Be Better’ Memorial Scholarship Fund and a memorial donor advised fund at CFHZ.
“Ian had been fighting battles with his mental health for a long, long time,” said Steve. “He knew from a very young age, and first approached us for help when he was eleven.” Even as he struggled, Ian managed to lift up those around him with a quiet strength. Following Ian’s death, Steve and Jill received countless messages from individuals sharing specific instances where Ian’s words and actions created a meaningful difference in their lives. “We knew Ian was a good, kind-hearted person. We just never knew the extent of his impact on others until he passed,” said Jill. “We wanted to honor that collective memory of Ian and give back to the community that he loved.”
Each year, a local swimmer nominated by their coach will receive a scholarship from the Ian Miskelley ‘Be Better’ Scholarship Fund. To qualify, the individual must be someone who displays the qualities people admired about Ian – a hard worker, a team player, and a good person. “Ian was always encouraging those around him to be better,” said Chelsea. “He made us all better for knowing him and this scholarship celebrates that quality in others.”
“We call it turning pain into passion. Ian is still giving people the strength to carry on, and we’re here to honor his legacy.”
– Steve Miskelley
Through a donor advised fund at CFHZ and a partnership with the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan the Miskelley’s were able to fund the be nice. program training sessions for the University of Michigan swim team athletes and staff. Steve explained, “Ian was junior on the team and already making his mark. This loss really hit the team hard. The additional stress of COVID-19 and isolation from support systems made this training even more crucial.”
Youth depression and thoughts of suicide have been on the rise for more than a decade, according to the Ottawa County Youth Assessment Survey. “Ian’s battle really opened my eyes to how many of my friends were struggling and how I can best support them,” Jeremiah explained.
Over the past ten years, CFHZ has invested over $1 million toward mental health initiatives and programs. Steve and Jill said that was a driving factor in their decision to establish a fund with the Foundation along with the flexibility and support CFHZ offered. “In the worst time of our lives, in the worst crisis we’ve ever had, this was easy. How would someone go about doing this without a Community Foundation? We wouldn’t have the first clue.”
The Miskelley family has several other projects in the works to help young people struggling with mental health concerns in the Holland/Zeeland community and beyond. “We call it turning pain into passion,” said Steve. “Ian is still giving people the strength to carry on, and we’re here to honor his legacy.”