On Aug. 21, 2017, Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Eckels Jr. was serving as an information systems technician aboard the destroyer USS John S. McCain when it collided with a merchant vessel near Singapore. The 23-year-old died in the crash, along with nine of his shipmates.
But Eckels’ memory, and his commitment to service live on.
On Sept. 14, family and friends will host the second annual Tim Eckels Jr. Living Memorial Celebration at Monument City Brewing Company in Baltimore. It will serve as a way to celebrate his life while supporting others, with proceeds from the noon to 5 p.m. event going to support the The Believe In Tomorrow Children’s Foundation.
“It’s very much open to the public,” said Eckels Jr.'s father, Tim Eckels Sr. “We do publicize this thing the best we can through social media.”
Skribe and the Whiskey Narrows String Band will be the musicians for the event, which will also feature raffles craft beer and other packages, multiple food trucks offering everything from pizza to barbecue, and a beard and mustache contest for a $10 entry fee that, again, goes toward charity.
“One of the nice things is every dollar we raise that day goes back to the charity, we don’t keep any of it,” Eckels Sr. said. "We pay for the music out of our own pocket.”
Monument City Brewing Company is donating the space, as well as crafting a special beer, he added.
"They will have a brew they’re going to do that will be on tap that day, and it will actually be named the DDG-56, which was Timmy’s ship number,” Eckels said. “In addition to Timmy, there were nine other families who lost sailors in that accident. We thought naming it after the ship was a way to memorialize the entire group of people who experienced a loss that day.”
The donations will be going to help The Believe In Tomorrow Children’s Foundation in the nonprofit’s mission to support families with children undergoing cancer treatment, according to Director of Development James Poisal, particularly at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
“We have a hospital housing facility one block from the facility at Johns Hopkins Hospital called The Children’s House at Johns Hopkins. We house 15 families every night who come from throughout the country,” Poisal said. “We give them a place to stay, we offer them meals every evening and transportation back and forth.”
The foundation also funds respite homes, places where families can take a vacation from treatment, or after-cancer treatment, on the mountains and beaches of Maryland, Delaware and North Carolina, according to Poisal.
After the collision in 2017, Eckels said he wasn’t initially even thinking of creating a fundraising event.
“Soon after the accident we started getting calls from people who wanted to do something,” he said. “I think it was my brother who called and asked, ‘Is there a place to make donations?’ I hadn’t even thought of that.”
The Believe In Tomorrow Children’s Foundation was something Eckels had already been contributing to through a friend, and so it seemed a natural charity for donations, he said. At the same time, he was working to put together a celebration of life for his son’s friends and shipmates.
“Those two things kind of wound up merging together," Eckels said. “It just kind of grew into what we call a living memorial fundraiser, an event we intend to do every year.”
And the first year was successful as a fundraiser too, according to Poisal, raising several thousand dollars for the foundation. Without this sort of volunteer fundraiser, Poisal said, The Believe In Tomorrow Children’s Foundation wouldn’t be able to support as many families as it does.
“I think this is a good example of a family taking a horrible tragedy and turning it into something good,” he said. “Trying to make positive memories and positive impact out of something that is an unfortunate tragedy.”
If you go
What: Second annual Tim Eckels Jr Living Memorial Celebration
When: Noon-2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14
Where: Monument City Brewing Company, 1 N. Haven St., Baltimore
For more information on the event, visit www.facebook.com/events/2334487120167870.
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For more information on The Believe In Tomorrow Children’s Foundation, visit believeintomorrow.org.