Press "Enter" to skip to content

3 Graduates Receive Second Annual George “Georgie” Swartz Scholarships

Wamesit Friends & Family Foundation program supports students with physical/cognitive disabilities

When George “Georgie” Swartz died in 2020 at the age of 12 after battling cerebral palsy since birth, he had already beaten the odds.

“He couldn’t walk, talk, see, hear, and they gave him only a week,” said Clayton Swartz, Georgie’s father. “He lived till he was almost 13.”

To remember Georgie and help others with similar challenges, the Wamesit Friends & Family Foundation awarded three $1,000 scholarships to graduating seniors. The Foundation’s mission is to provide educational support to children and their families in our community. This is the second year for the George “Georgie” Swartz scholarship, which is awarded to students with physical/cognitive disabilities who have demonstrated Georgie’s strength and positivity, to further their educational goals.

“It’s growing every year,” said Swartz, who credits Wamesit Lanes co-owner Donny MacLaren Jr. as the driving force behind the scholarship. “We’d like to just help as many of these kids as we can, because they have enough challenges. It also keeps George’s memory alive with everybody.”

There were 11 students nominated.

The three 2023 recipients were:

Colleen Cremin, a graduate of Tewksbury Memorial High School. Cremin was nominated by Kelly Doyle, a family friend. 

“Colleen was born with cerebral palsy,” wrote Doyle. “From that she has some physical limitations, but for as long as I have known her, I have never seen her let them stop her from doing anything she has set her mind to. She has been a member of multiple teams at the high school and not once she used it as an excuse or let it stop her. She outworks every kid out there on the field and never gives up. “

Colleen is also an excellent student and earned National Honor Society membership her junior and senior years. She plans to become a nurse.

Swartz with Christine, Colleen and David Cremin.

Paul Oppedisano, a graduate of Tewksbury Memorial High School. Oppedisano received three nominations.

“Paul was diagnosed at age five with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and by age 11 he was fully reliant on his motorized wheelchair,” wrote one supporter. “Paul is a funny, compassionate, bright and strong-willed young man with an affinity for learning.”

Even though Paul’s disability is a progressive disease, he’s a fighter who remains positive and spreads that positivity to others. When he was 13, he served as the Tewksbury Pee Wee AAA youth hockey team manager.

Paul plans to attend Middlesex Community College. While undecided on a chosen course of study, he has a passion for history and sports. He was at the ceremony with mom Joanna and dad Brian.

Joanna, Paul and Brian Oppedisano

Rachel Solomon, a graduate of Chelmsford Memorial High School. Solomon was nominated by her teacher, Mrs. Mottram

“Rachel is an amazing student and person,” wrote Mottram. Rachel plans to become a child life specialist, working at Children’s Hospital. These psychology professionals work with children who have been diagnosed with an illness, to help them manage their feelings. 

She most recently spent time working at Perkins School for the Blind to gain experience working with young people facing physical challenges.

“I worked in a special ed classroom for the last six weeks, and that kind of pushed me to want to do this,” said Rachel, who was at the ceremony with mom Jen and sister Tori. 

Swartz with Rachel Solomon.

“Congratulations to every single one of you,” said MacLaren, below left with recipients. “Some of you were nominated several times by peers, by friends, by teachers. All had amazingly wonderful things to say about your spirit, your positive characteristics. And you were chosen because you really match the qualities that Georgie showed during his time with us.”

Georgie’s Lasting Influence

Swartz took photos with scholarship recipients under the illuminated tree in the lobby of Wamesit Lanes, because a Mother’s Day photo there with Georgie and the family was tradition.

“He changed my life for the better, I tell people all the time,” said Swartz of his son. “He made me a better dad, a better friend. It really does help you focus on the things that are important — family, health. Little things really are little things. It gives you perspective pretty quick.”

Applications for the 2024 George “Georgie” Swartz scholarship will open in April. Watch the Carnation for an announcement.

Those who wish to donate to expand the scholarship program and help more new grads with physical/cognitive disabilities go on to college can do so at the Wamesit Lanes Friends & Family Foundation website.

Lorna is a U.S. Army veteran and 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: