HAINES CITY – Ingrid Burch recalls just how passionately her son Levi loved the great outdoors, sports, and all kinds of physical activities.
“His love was anything to do with hunting and the outdoors, but he was pretty much into any kind of sports,” she said. “Each morning he would go to the gym, play basketball, run back to the house, grab his golf clubs, go play golf, come back, and go hog hunting at night. That was one of his ambitions. He wanted to be a game warden.”
Today, Ingrid Burch runs the Levi Burch Foundation, which is in the process of starting a second scholarship in Levi’s name.
“We want to create a scholarship for criminal justice students, or for what Levi loved, which was the great outdoors,” she said. “We’re trying to make this something positive. We want to do something to help others.”
But at the same time it’s been difficult, Ingrid Burch said, and not just because of all the paperwork that a 501c3 non-profit organization has to fill out and file before establishing a scholarship. There’s also the emotional toll this process takes on the family.
“When we have roadside vigils, it’s hard, because it opens up a lot of old wounds,” she said.
On Sept. 5, 2010, 20-year-old Joshua Levi Burch of Lake Wales was fatally shot in what police believe was a road rage incident. It happened near Pleasant Hill Road in Poinciana. No one has been arrested for the murder.
Burch’s friends and family established the Levi Burch Foundation, and in September 2011 held a memorial march on the corner of Pleasant Hill Road and Green Tree Drive in Poinciana to mark the anniversary of his tragic death.
Now the foundation is working on creating a new scholarship in his name.
It would be the second one. There now exists a Levi Burch Scholarship Fund, which the foundation operates in collaboration with the Stillwater Christian Life Center Church in Haines City.
When the church held its annual Game Feast at the Lake Eva Banquet Facility on Thursday, Aug. 16, there was a booth set up for the Levi Burch Scholarship Fund. The Game Feast typically sells more than 650 tickets, bringing a huge crowd to the event, which also featured a live auction.
“If they buy raffle tickets toward any of the items, then it goes toward the scholarship fund,” said Tiffany Dunnahoe, the volunteer who worked the table.
“We do this every year with the Game Feast,” Ingrid Burch said. “That money that they raise for that part of the ticket selling goes toward the scholarship, and we’ve given out two so far. With the church, it’s open to any student. They have to fill out a questionnaire and put together an essay on why they think they should get it and what they would use it for.”
“We’ve done a few scholarships in the last few years for kids,” said Lynn Burch, Levi’s father.
But Ingrid Burch said they want this program to grow and expand, which is why the Levin Burch Foundation is in the process of establishing a second scholarship.
“We want to be able to give more every year, instead of just one,” she said. “We have the Levi Burch Foundation, and we want to be able to do that as well, to be able to give more scholarships and see it grow every year. We want to do something similar to what the church does for a scholarship, but we have not gotten that far yet. There’s a lot of paperwork to get that going. But that’s our plan. It’s just having to put it in motion.”
Levi Burch was a 2009 Haines City High School graduate and Polk State College student when he was fatally shot. He died after being taken to Osceola Regional Medical Center in Kissimmee.
He worked at Winn-Dixie, and colleagues at the store set up a reward fund that generated $1,300 from a hamburger and hot dog sale on Sept. 11, 2010. The fund continued to grow, with $5,000 contributed by Central Florida Crimeline, and most of the rest coming from the community.
The Crimeline reward was later increased to $15,000 for any information that leads to a felony arrest for this crime.
The shooting occurred early that Sunday morning about 12:30. Osceola County sheriff’s deputies responded to a 7-Eleven at 1600 Pleasant Hill Road after getting calls about a shooting. Witnesses told the deputies that a burgundy Chevrolet pickup had pulled into the parking lot and the driver, later identified as Burch, appeared to have been shot.
Several days after the shooting, deputies and detectives set up road blocks on Pleasant Hill Road and distributed 4,000 Crimeline fliers, asking for the public’s help in solving this case. Deputies also placed road signs in the area, in the hopes of raising awareness of the crime.
Detectives have been searching for a black or Hispanic man thought to have been driving a newer model, black SUV, possibly a Nissan. Detectives say the driver was heading north on Pleasant Hill Road, about a mile from State Road 17-92, after the shooting.
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