Sharon Perfetti had no idea that her grandmother won her grandfather’s attention by sticking her foot out — literally.
Her grandmother noticed her future husband and church and stuck her foot out into the aisle —“accidentally on purpose” — to get his attention. In June 1936, Henrietta Meseke and Vernon Westendorf were married at that same church.
Perfetti, founder of a business The Stories Between, offering unique individual tribute websites, read it on her own service. Her mother’s entry on her grandparents revealed the story.
These are the types of stories Perfetti hopes to bring to light through The Stories Between, and allow families to share them among generations for years to come. By offering individual tribute pages, Perfetti’s vision is to end “drive-through” condolences and help people craft more substantial crowd-sourced life histories.
“I really wanted to start a place that it’s a website that’s very positive,” Perfetti said. “Every life has a beginning and end, let’s celebrate the stories between.”
Perfetti, a Fallston resident, has an established track record of helping ideas grow. She is the executive director and one of the co-founders of the Cool Kids Campaign, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of life of children with cancer. Before that, she led a community effort to build Annie’s Playground in Fallston to memorialize her friend’s daughter and other children who had died too soon.
Perfetti was focused on raising her three children when their family friend Annie Cumpton, 6, was hit and killed in front of her family by a drunk driver. The family had been leaving the Baltimore Arena after watching a circus show.
Perfetti was helping to organize a bench in her memory at her school but as the community support grew she realized it wasn’t enough.
She led the effort from 2003 to 2005 to build the playground, and in 2005 thousands of volunteers built it as a 1-acre tribute to Annie and all children who were lost too soon.
In 2006, she connected with Rob Belanger, Chris Federico and world champion figure skater Kimmie Meissner to found the Cool Kids Campaign together, focused on improving the quality of life for children battling cancer.
Cool Kids, based in Towson, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and distributes a Cool Kids Connection newspaper nationally to 6,000 families, sends out 250 care packages annually and operates a learning center to provide a preschool program to children undergoing cancer treatments, as well as offering other services.
Through her work, Perfetti met many families who have lost children, and those children still had stories that should be shared.
“People are so hesitant to come up to the parent and talk,” Perfetti said. “They don’t know how her parents are going to respond. So there’s a tendency to not talk about it.”
It was this idea that inspired her to create Stories Between about two years ago.
Stories Between users have found many applications for the site from genealogical documentation to memorials to even recording one’s own life story. It houses recipes and photos, all intended to celebrate that life.
The website gives page administrators the option of making it private, but many decide to keep it public and allow it to come up on Google searches. One page that has gotten a lot of attention is about Walter Compton Davis, who was lost at sea in 1942 while serving in the U.S. Naval Reserve on the Coamo. The loss of the Coamo was the greatest single loss of merchant mariners (188) on a U.S. flagged merchant vessel of World War II, the page states. People researching the ship or who have connections to it have contacted the author of that page, a cousin of Davis, she said.
Perfetti believes this format offers a better platform than social media like Facebook where the environment can get hostile. It allows users to set up e-mail notifications when others contribute to the site, so they will know when things are posted. And administrators have the option of approving entries before they are posted.
“You really sit down and think what do I want to write about this person?” she said. “It really prompts real thought and real writing. What you end up coming up with is something that has a much greater impact on their family or close friend.”
|This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Path To Excellence: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Path to Excellence magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Path to Excellence.|