Barbara D. Mathews Ladybug Fund
As Mark Mathews' mother, Barbara, neared the end of her two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer, she looked at him and said, "I've got a lot more stuff to do."
"She wasn't accepting of the fact that maybe she had an illness that was going to shorten her life," Mark recalled. Right then and there, he committed himself to carrying on her legacy of helping Greater Akron's less fortunate residents.
As a former FirstMerit executive and a retired Akron Public Schools teacher and administrator, Barbara had a long history of helping those who "just needed a break," particularly young people. According to Mark, she became an educator to give disadvantaged children a leg up. "If they got a good education through the public school system, then they would have more opportunities in life," he said.
And it was in the classroom that Barbara became known for her ladybugs. "There was this song," he said. "Whenever it was time to settle the kids … she'd sit down at the piano and jam out on the Ladybug Song." Today, its lyrics represent much more than a simple melody; they characterize his mother's very nature. "'Oh, ladybug, come here and sit upon my shoulder, I will not harm you' ... It's just this really catchy tune that ultimately we got sick of, but now we appreciate all the more," Mark said.
In 2009, following his mother's death, Mark and his family started the Barbara D. Mathews Ladybug Fund, which continues her giving legacy in the community. It's a legacy his son, Myles, has already embraced: For his birthday, Myles asked friends and family not for gifts but for donations to the Ladybug Fund. "I look at him, and I go, 'Where do you get that?'" Mark said. Then, with a smile, he remembers: "He's Barbara Mathews' grandson."