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Fundraiser honors lost young life, raises GFC scholarships

A party at the New York Eatery on May 15 celebrated the life of young Frankie Berko. Close to 75 people honored the youngster in an inspiring and festive way.

Friends and family ate, drank, danced and “Lived Like Frankie.” The event honored Frankie, whose life was cut short after suffering an epileptic seizure – after surviving a serious accident in 2019.

A foundation – livelikefrankie.com – was created in his honor and, on what would have been his Bar Mitzvah year, loved ones came together to celebrate.

“Everyone who attended the event truly knows what it means to Live Like Frankie, and we plan to spread that love until everyone knows what it means,” Frankie’s mother, Jen Berko, told the JHV.

“The event was filled with Frankie’s friends from different facets of his life, and it was beautiful to see how everyone embraced one another.”

As a fundraiser, the gathering provided scholarships for kids to attend Greene Family Camp, especially families struggling financially due to medical issues.

Berko’s dear friend, Miriam Goott, came up with the idea for a party and engaged vendors to donate their services.

New York Eatery’s Riana Sherman, who is a close family friend, donated the restaurant’s space and food, while Cory Baum and Jordan Scheiner donated their time with free DJ and photography services, respectively.

Zadok Jewelers donated a necklace, Dessert Gallery donated a gift card, Jordan Scheiner donated a photo session and a few families donated Texans and Astros tickets.

“Frankie’s camp cabin and friends attended the event, with one family coming from Austin driving back and forth in one day,” Berko said. “That family remarked how Frankie changed their lives.

“They explained that Frankie was known by everyone at camp as the kid who was enthusiastic about everything and always pulled everyone along to take part in whatever he was doing. They said he was an incredible friend to everyone.”

inspiring others

The Live Like Frankie Scholarship Fund and Dance Off fundraiser was born out of tragedy. From a life cut short came a unique way to share love, compassion and a joy of life – one person at a time.

To know Frankie is to know true love and compassion for all people and living things. He has embodied these qualities and spent the majority of his life befriending the unfriended, volunteering to help others, exuding a passion for kindness and living every day to the fullest.

It may sound like an overstatement to describe a 10-year-old this way, but one needn’t look further than his teachers, neighbors, friends and strangers to know this is true.

His fourth-grade teacher said he changed her life. She said Frankie was unafraid to share his Judaism. When Christian holidays would come around and were celebrated in school among a majority of Christian students and staff, he proudly stood up, time and again, to explain that his holiday is different. He went on to share his holiday traditions and the reasons for them with his class of him. His teacher de ella explained that the conversations he had with her about his devout faith de ella made her examine her connection de ella to her own faith de ella. It deepened her connection from her. “I have changed my life,” she said.

Neighbors love to share how, unknownst to the Berko family, Frankie would go door to door to see if the neighborhood kids could hang out. Each time he’d ask the adults how they are doing. If the kids weren’t home, then he’d sit and have long conversations with the adults, inquiring about their day and sharing with great enthusiasm, which made the neighbors laugh. One neighbor, in particular, told the family that Frankie stories are their favorite family conversations. I have changed their lives.

Frankie did charity work at Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism and with local charities. Once, he took his wagon and went door to door selling signs for donations to a local charity. During a Mitzvah Day at HCRJ, Frankie was helping a much older man by teaching him how to create the mementos they were crafting. He did these things with no push from adults.

Every Mitzvah Day, he could be found at the Plant A Smile table, where they decorated flowerpots and planted beautiful flowers in them to be sent to the residents at Seven Acres. He has appointed himself as director of planting every year. I have changed lives.

While he had loads of friends, he always seemed to find the child who was friendless and befriend them. One mom who had to put her child at another school would call Frankie’s mom regularly for playdates, because Frankie was the only child who made friends with him, and he was happy to play whatever game her child wanted to play. I have changed lives.

On Sept. 12, 2019, Frankie lost his life very suddenly. He had survived a serious accident and, subsequently, was diagnosed with epilepsy. He was put on medication and made a miraculous recovery. He was called the miracle child throughout the hospital.

There was no way to know that, after school on Sept. 12, Frankie would have a seizure and not wake up again.

His passing was deemed Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy.

“To this day, our family remains in shock,” Berko said. “We’ve raised thousands of dollars for the Epilepsy Foundation as research is sorely needed. However, we know this is not how Frankie would want to be remembered. Frankie would want us to help others in his name and so, the Live Like Frankie Scholarship Fund was created with Greene Family Camp. He called GFC, ‘The happiest place on earth.’”

Frankie would never be able to accept that any child would miss out on summer camp. For many children, camp is the only time they are with other Jewish youth. This year, alone, the fund has awarded full scholarships to three families and more are coming. A session at camp is nearly $5,000.

This was the first in-person fundraiser. More are planned for the future, including in April, in honor of Frankie’s birthday.

Learn more about Frankie at livelikefrankie.com. To donate to the scholarship fund, go to greene.org/donate/live-like-frankie.

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