COVID-19 has impacted all of our lives. But for many, it’s brought the devastating loss of a family member. YurView URI sports commentator, Stone Freeman, lost his father to COVID and decided to try to turn the tragedy into something that would help others by founding the Live Like Russ Foundation.
Stone joined YurView’s Main St. Living recently, where hosts Cheryl Nelson and Danielle Alvari interviewed him about how the Freeman family is carrying on the legacy of Russell Freeman by giving back to the community in such a special way. Watch the video of the interview above, or we’ve provided the full transcript below. (lightly edited for clarity)
Live Like Russ Foundation
Cheryl Nelson (00:32) – Please welcome to the show, Stone Freeman, founder of Live Like Russ Foundation. Stone, thank you so much for joining us today and we are so sorry for your loss.
Stone Freeman (00:41) – Thank you very much. We appreciate that on behalf of my family and I, and thank you for having me today and giving us an opportunity to talk about our journey here.
CN (00:49) – Absolutely. And your dad Russ Freeman died from COVID-19 last December. And after such a tragic loss, you and your family decided to try to help others. Why did you decide to start a foundation in his honor? And you did it so quickly too.
SF (01:07) – That’s been a question that a lot of people have asked. And I think part of it is to help us kind of get through this ourselves, is to help us feel you know a little different than the darkness that we felt over the last couple months. But largely too, this is just something that dad would have done.
That’s our mantra right now, not only to live like Russ, but if there was any other families in our communities that have suffered anything, dad was always the first person to kind of help out. So we felt that now we can give back and do what he would want to do and help people as much as we can.
CN (01:41) – I know he’d be so proud of you. He raised you so well.
SF (01:43) – Thank you, I appreciate that.
Lieutenant Russell Freeman
Danielle Alvari (01:44) – So how did you decide what direction you wanted the foundation’s support to go?
SF (01:49) – Right now it’s kind of twofold. Our first, primarily, was a scholarship fund, and that’s because it was so important to dad – education, primarily higher education. My two sisters and I are both at the University of Rhode Island or graduates of the University of Rhode Island.
Dad had a bachelor’s and a master’s degree but also just kind of educating yourself on getting better in whatever field you might be in. So he was really involved with the Rhode Island Department of Corrections and training the newest recruits and whatnot. So it’s not necessarily just for college and whatnot. But giving students and people an opportunity to continue getting better in their field was something that was really important to him and now important to us at the foundation.
CN (02:29) – Wow. It takes a lot of courage and inner strength to do what you’re doing and to talk about this and try to help others. And raising money too is not easy to do. So how are you going about doing that?
SF (02:41) – Well, right now it’s not us, it’s our community and that’s really been our pillar right now that’s holding us up is our community here in Rhode island. Dad was from Cape Cod in Massachusetts, so his community back home, the Rhode island brotherhood of correctional officers where my mother and father were both correctional officers. Well, are… still, in my mom’s case. All these different communities have come together and really rallied around us.
We’ve done a wristband that says Live Like Russ on it with his badge number 1163. And that started off… Hey, make a donation, you get a wristband. And we did a drive by outside our house. We got upwards of $4,000 just there outside of our house so our community has really helped us. And now we have a lot of people that have local businesses and whatnot that, you know, are donating a portion of their sales on certain days to our foundation. And that’s allowed us to grow a little bit.
DA (03:29) – Wow. Yeah, you mentioned those bracelets, Live Like Russ. What is the ultimate goal of the Live Like Russ Foundation?
SF (03:37) – I think the ultimate goal is to just kind of spread exactly what dad was here on earth because there’s kind of this mantra… you know, and it happens to everybody when they lose somebody – “is” versus “was” and there’s a side of it that will always, you know, is or was big Russ, was my dad Russell Freeman. But the “is” is what we can continue to carry on. And that’s helping people out. So in the long run, again, we want to get scholarships out to students. But then also, as we continue to grow, anybody that needs help in our family and community and we feel that they could use our support and something that dad would be passionate about, we will do whatever we can to help them out.
How to Make a Donation
CN (04:13) – Before we go, could you share with other viewers who are watching and explain to them why everybody should take COVID so seriously because I’m sure this loss was unexpected for you.
SF (04:26) – Yeah, I mean right now it’s just about listening to people right now and hearing what’s important. My family and I are fortunate where we’re starting this vaccination process right now and we want this over just as much as anybody. But it’s not over yet. And that’s the concerning part.
Numbers continue to decrease I think, at least in Rhode island we’re starting to see that. But it doesn’t mean it’s over and I think the only thing that i would ask you… like today, I saw the Rhode Island Department of Health, it said only one person had died, that deaths are decreasing. And my instinct is to say, yeah, that’s a good thing, right? But that’s also one family that has to go through what we’re going through. So that’s my only reminder.
I look at the transparency report by the state of Rhode island every day, and there’s only one state employee death. And it’s our dad. So my concern and my logic is just think about that one person and that one person’s family and wear your mask. Do what the scientists and people that are doing far more research than I am are saying and just be safe because you might feel invincible. But that doesn’t mean everybody does. So just be cautious.
DA (05:27) – So important. And Stone, where can people find more information or make a donation to the foundation?
SF (05:32) – You can reach us, that’s my personal Twitter, so I’m always on Twitter. Feel free to interact with me. We also have a Gmail that you can feel free to send an email to. It’s LiveLikeRuss1163@gmail.com. And then we also just started a Venmo account which is just Live Like Russ Foundation if you want to make a donation via Venmo, feel free to do so.
DA (05:51) – Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Stone.
SF (05:53) – Thank you very much for having me. I really appreciate it. Thank you again.
CN (05:56) – And i know Russ’ memory will live on, Stone. So thank you again for all you’re doing.