MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (STMW) — Dawn Brancheau had many passions — the environment, helping children, animals, her faith — her sister, Diane Gross, said.

Now Gross and other family members of Brancheau, a Cedar Lake native and SeaWorld trainer who was killed by a whale last year, are continuing those passions through the Dawn Brancheau Foundation.

The foundation is holding its first Dream Big Walk to raise funds for their efforts Oct. 16 at Hidden Lake Park in Merrillville. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the 1-mile walk at 10 a.m. Registration fee is $25, $10 for children 13 and under, which includes an event T-shirt. Registration on the day of the event is $30.

Gross said a portion of the proceeds from the walk will benefit the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls in Chicago, Boys and Girls Club of Cedar Lake, Perry Ferrini Dog Park in Schererville and the Andrean High School Dream Big scholarship.

“The foundation is continuing Dawn’s legacy of helping others one project at a time. This is the way Dawn lived her life when we lost her so suddenly,” Gross said.

After the walk, Gross said participants will be invited to make cards that will be delivered to residents at St. Anthony Home in Crowbn Point, carrying on Brancheau’s tradition of making handmade cards for every special occasion.

“This is our first walk in Northwest Indiana. I’d like it to be our first annual walk,” Gross said.

The foundation had a 5K walk/run in Orlando, Fla., where Brancheau lived, on her birthday in April, and raised more than $25,000. After the walk, SeaWorld dedicated the Dawn Brancheau Educational Complex and placed a plaque with her words in the center of the pavilion.

So far, the foundation’s fundraising efforts have reached as far as Africa, having helped pay for a well in South Africa in July so kids there could experience fresh water for the first time; a soccer field in the Democratic Republic of Congo; and a long-distance adoption of a child who lives in an orphanage in the Congo.

Closer to home, the foundation did roadside cleanup in Cedar Lake, near the home where the family lived, and provides a monthly pizza dinner for age 3-18 residents of the Central Florida Children’s Home. It also pays for a shopping trip on each child’s birthday on which they can pick out new bed linens.

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