Pictured from left to right: Katie Fuhrmeister, member of the Rivercrest Event Committee; Joe McGee, Rivercrest HOA president; Kacey Folger, Robert L. Howard Foundation president; and Shelley Ayala, member of the Rivercrest Event Committee.

Serving seven years in the army and 18 years with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), Robert ‘Bobby’ L. Howard was no stranger to protecting the lives of others. On June 23, 2023, Howard lost his life in a motorcycle accident on his way to a Defender event. As the family and the community grappled with the loss of the beloved Ruskin resident, Kacey Folger, Howard’s fiancee, became determined to preserve his memory.

“We knew we had to keep his legacy alive,” said Folger. “We were witnessing the community grieve and mourn just as we were. Bobby touched so many lives, and we didn’t want that to stop just because he was no longer physically with us.”

In November 2023, only three months after submitting a formal application, Folger was notified that the proposed Robert L. Howard Foundation had been successfully registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Folger formally announced the foundation to the community and began accepting donations on Thanksgiving.

The organization’s first official donation was gifted by Sutherland Lodge No. 174. Hosting its annual award dinner on November 21, 2023, the masons invited Folger to attend as Howard was honored as one of the organization’s community heroes. Upon giving a speech discussing Howard and the foundation’s mission, a hat was passed around to collect donations. By the end of the evening, members of the Sutherland Lodge No. 174 gave an additional $1,000 to the foundation.

In December 2023, the Rivercrest community, located at 11560 Ramble Creek Dr. in Riverview, partnered with Events by KC LLC, Folger’s company, to host its S’mores & Stores event. The event is centered around both Santa and the Grinch giving s’mores away while attendees enjoy live music, food trucks and access to more than 40 vendors. Folger has helped plan this event for the past three years, traditionally awarding the proceeds to a nonprofit in the area. This past year, however, the nearly $1,000 raised was awarded to the foundation. This year’s S’mores & Stores event will also donate all proceeds to the Robert L. Howard Foundation.

Using these generous donations and others from previous events, the foundation is currently looking to offer four $500 scholarships to students at East Bay High School, Howard’s alma mater. Students interested in applying can email the foundation at info@robertlhowardfoundation.org. Applications are due by Friday, June 7.

As the organization continues to grow, Folger remains grateful for the community’s ongoing support.

“Everyone I meet has a story about Bobby that warms my heart,” said Folger. “… The stories I hear of how Bobby changed, influenced or touched their lives [are] beautiful. These stories fill my heart and make me feel close to him again.”

The foundation is currently seeking volunteers for its fundraising and Christmas committees. To learn more about the foundation, please visit https://robertlhowardfoundation.org/ or its Facebook page. Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 1921 in Ruskin and are also accepted at the above website.

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