By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
INDEPENDENCE — A sun-kissed fall morning. Uniformed students, jeans-clad parents and older adults in Sunday dress gradually filled the pews of Nativity of Mary Church on Sept. 22 to remember Blair Shanahan Lane.
Blair, 11, died July 5 after being struck by a bullet fired by a man shooting into a lake not far from the house where Blair and her family were celebrating July 4. She would have been a sixth grader at Nativity School.
In his remarks at the beginning of Mass, which was also attended by Blair’s parents, Michelle and Brian DeMoss, family members and friends, Father Bob Stone, pastor of Nativity of Mary Church, said, “Today we celebrate life. Blair’s death taught us the preciousness of life, the life God gives us. It also teaches us how our lives are interconnected … In Blair’s very short life, she changed the lives of those around her with her kindness. God’s love is always with us, in good times and in difficult times. Jesus changed lives. And in her life, Blair changed lives too. She had a great heart and had a great impact on our community.”
Blair’s parents cared for babies and young children in foster care, and Blair welcomed each new arrival. But she was bothered by two small things: cold, bare feet. She would always ask the same question, “Why do foster kids always show up with stuffed animals, but no one can find them socks?”
According to the web site, blairsfostersocks.org, Blair was determined to fix the problem of those cold, bare feet. She came up with Foster Socks, a program of collecting and donating socks to foster and homeless children. The website said that she hoped to launch Foster Socks as part of her Girl Scouts Gold Award project. She began filling journals with ideas and plans for the project.
“I was kind of talking out loud to Blair in her hospital room,” remembered her mother, Michelle DeMoss. “The next thing I knew, phones were ringing, people wanting to donate socks to Foster Socks.” DeMoss said that when she returned home from the hospital after Blair’s death, she found, on an ottoman in her daughter’s room, a flow chart for Foster Socks. “I knew then what I wanted to do,” she said. “Blair radiated God’s presence and love to us. She would have gotten Foster Socks up and running. Now it’s up to us.”
Blair’s cousins attend Our Lady of the Presentation School in Lee’s Summit, and they, in part, led Presentation to partner with Nativity of Mary School to collect socks for children in foster care, in Blair’s name.
At the Mass, students from both schools brought up baskets and bags of socks to the altar to be blessed. Children’s socks will be donated to agencies to go to children in the foster care system and children in distress. Adult socks and underwear will be donated to agencies to go to the elderly poor and older children in foster care.
Father Stone added that he hoped the foster socks charity would continue for a long time.
Randi Baehr, the mother of a friend of Blair’s from Our Lady of Lourdes School, which Blair had attended before transferring to Nativity in January 2011, will carry that hope for a long time on the underside of her left arm. Two pink and olive green socks forming butterfly wings are tattooed there in honor of Blair and the Foster Socks project.
“Blair touched my life and was an inspiration to me,” she said. “She was a reminder of who I want to be everyday.”
A statue of Mary was also blessed at the Mass. The statue was later carried to a high table, draped in rose colored cloth, in the hallway near the fifth grade classroom, where Blair had studied. A small plaque at Mary’s feet says, “Blair Shanahan-Lane, a friend to everyone and a faithful follower of Christ. January 24, 2000-July 5, 2011.”
After Mass concluded, the assembly gathered outside the church to watch a release of doves. The snowy white birds circled in the skies above Nativity for a moment then formed a V and headed to their home in Belton.
Father Stone told the assembled students and adults, “I suspect Blair up in heaven has a big smile on her face today. She sees her friends at Nativity of Mary School, her family and other friends. She’s with you all in a different way.”
If you would like to donate to the project, new socks and other clothing essentials may be dropped off at Summit United Methodist Church, 114 SE Douglas Street, Lee’s Summit, or mailed to: Blair’s Foster Socks, P.O. Box 7075, Lee’s Summit, MO 64064-7075. To make a contribution to the Foster Socks fund, send a check to The Blair Shanahan Lane Memorial Fund, Blue Ridge Bank & Trust, 6202 Raytown Trafficway, Raytown, Mo., 64133. Proceeds will benefit the Blair’s Foster Socks Foundation. To learn more about Blair’s Foster Socks, visit www.blairsfostersocks.org.