Foundation for mother, son killed in Byron fire awards grants to local teachers

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BYRON, Ill. (WTVO) — The tragic deaths of Maggie and Amos Meyer left behind a void for many who knew the young mother and son.

Margaret Meyer, 31, and her 3-year-old son, Amos, were both killed in the October 19th, 2016, fire at 2020 Silverthorn Lane. Almost immediately, authorities called the fire suspicious. An investigation found that the fire started on the night of the 18th, but was not reported until the following morning.

Fire officials say the mother and boy were likely sleeping when the fire broke out.  Smoke detectors did go off, but the victims weren’t able to make it out.

The Ogle County Sheriff’s Department arrested Duane Meyer, 37, for allegedly starting the house fire which killed his ex-wife and son in 2016.

Meyer was arrested in the morning of October 9th, 2019, and charged with 4 counts of First Degree Murder, two counts of Aggravated Arson and Concealment of a Homicidal Death.

Photo: Ogle County Sheriff

Stephanie White created the Maggie and Amos Foundation, a group which honors them decided to do something positive in their memory.

“The foundation was developed as a way for students and staff here at Chana [Education Center] to channel our grief following their deaths, to find a way to remember them in a positive light,” she said.

White says she met Maggie and Amos at the center, at 204 Main Street, in 2013, and says the foundation she’s established is based on their interests.

“Maggie had a passion for special education, and so being able to provide some students with financial support would’ve been something that she was all on board for, would’ve loved doing,” she said. “We want to continue focusing on what they loves, the things that they were passionate about.”

The foundation’s biggest fundraiser is an annual 5K Infinity Run.

“Maggie was a Tough Mudder, she was a Spartan, she did 5K’s and 10K’s and triathalons,” White said. “The name came from, they had a saying: they would say ‘I love you to infinity,’ back and forth, her and Amos.”

The money raised from the event goes to local teachers, fulfilling their wishes for the classroom.

So far, they’ve awarded 25 grants, including one for Cindy Stern, who wanted to purchase flexible seating for the blind and low-vision students she teaches.

“We did all the research to find out that flexible seating is something that can help kids be engaged and stay more on task in class,” Stern said.

“This is a way that, being a recipient of the grant, we’re able to live on the story of Maggie and Amos, by talking about them and by using this flexible seating to help our students, just like she wanted to help her students, here,” she continued.

The foundation has also given out five college scholarships, as well as providing funds to public libraries.

In total, the non-profit has donated over $20,000.

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