Family of 8-year-old killed in Mayfield Heights house fire creates Make-A-Wish endowment

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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A fundraising campaign is underway to help honor a beautiful and generous 8-year-old little girl, who was tragically murdered with her mother right before Thanksgiving.

A neighbor is accused of stalking and killing Rebecca Pletnewski, 41, and then setting fire to the family’s Mayfield Heights home. Olivia Schneider was upstairs in her bedroom when she succumbed to smoke inhalation.

“I was shocked, really sad and really concerned,” said Dave Payne, a friend and colleague of Olivia’s father Kurt Schneider.

Kurt and Rebecca were no longer a couple, but were close, and he was utterly devastated by the loss.

Almost immediately Kurt began channeling his grief into action, starting with a toy drive, because Olivia donated a toy every year to a child in need.

She also had a favorite quote, “Choose to be kind and your world will be like a rainbow.”

“One of the things Kurt found, as he was going through Olivia’s things was a drawing she’d done of a rainbow and it said, ‘be kind and be nice to people,’ “ said Payne, who is also Chairman of the Advisory Board for the non- profit organization Make-A-Wish in northeast Ohio.

He said, that drawing combined with one of Olivia’s dreams sparked an idea that could potentially help many sick children for years to come.

“She always wanted to go to Disney and Disney is one of the top wishes we do at Make-A-Wish so we thought maybe this was a way to pull it together,” said Payne.

The goal is to raise $150,000 in donations, because that is the amount necessary to establish an endowment, that could send a child to Disney every year in Olivia’s memory.

There is no deadline for donations, which don’t have to large sums.

However they are asking people to share the story and encourage friends to also donate.

Payne said, the fund will not only help Olivia’s grieving family heal but countless other families in the future.

“Try to create something really good out of something that’s just so devastating,” he said.

You can visit Olivia's campaign, here.

Continuing coverage, here.

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