Taylor Mae Stinchcomb and her beloved dog who died with her will be remembered in a fundraiser at a Gurnee park to benefit causes she believed in, such as her church's mission trips and pet adoption.
Humans and animals are invited to the second annual Taylor and Romulus Fun Day in the Park. It'll be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Viking Park on Old Grand Avenue in Gurnee's village center.
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Proceeds will go to the Taylor Mae Stinchcomb Foundation, which supports Christian teenagers, young adults and families for retreats, mission trips, athletics and family needs, as well as organizations involved in pet adoption and wellness programs.
Taylor, 15, of Gurnee, and her Doberman were together when they died in a single-vehicle crash near Grayslake in June 2011. Upset that Romulus had been diagnosed with cancer and might be euthanized, Taylor took him and the family minivan without permission, according to police.
Because she was distraught about Romulus' condition, she asked a 15-year-old friend to drive. The friend crashed into trees and a utility pole on Almond Road just south of Route 120, authorities said. The driver was treated for minor injuries.
Taylor's mother, Lee Ann Stinchcomb, said her daughter was showing tremendous growth at the time of her death by becoming involved in a high-school Bible study group called Deeper at Immanuel Church in Gurnee, having a desire to attend culinary school and being passionate about pet adoption. She said there is a measure of comfort in holding the Taylor and Romulus Fun Day in the Park.
"Everybody's grief is different and everyone will handle it in their own way," Stinchcomb said Monday. "But for us, (the event) has been a real help in the healing process."
Gurnee Park District employee Tricia Hansen, a Stinchcomb family friend, came up with the fundraiser idea. She said Saturday's fun will include a pet walk, dog agility course, barbecue, bake sale, raffles, silent auction, various vendors, live music and Andrew Han with high-ranking UFO World Cup Series disc dogs Solar and Psy.
Barbecue will be on Saturday's menu because Taylor enjoyed it and helped her father prepare rubs and smoked meat. Since her death, Bill Stinchcomb has used his rotisserie smoker to cook for charitable get-togethers, while also raising money for his daughter's foundation.
Local pet rescue organizations are scheduled to participate in an adoptable dogs fashion show toward the end of the day.
Hansen said there also will be a table devoted to Romulus -- who was remembered for a friendly disposition -- to raise awareness of canine cancer.
"I just felt we needed to do something to keep her memory going and for people to remember what her passions were," Hansen said.
Taylor was 13 when she saw Romulus in a shelter and asked to adopt him, her mother said. They became almost inseparable, with the Doberman even attending all of Taylor's Warren Township Girls Softball travel team games and receiving his own No. 6 jersey with the Stinchcomb name on it.
Lee Ann Stinchcomb said she knows her daughter and the dog would have enjoyed the fundraiser.
"She was just the light of our lives," Stinchcomb said. "The house was just so quiet without her and Romulus there."