On December 4, 2016, Vero Beach native James Franklin Graves, II – known to those who loved him as “Jimmy ” passed away in a tragic boating accident at the age of fifteen. In a show of love and support, the community rallied around the Graves family, friends and those who were touched by Jimmy’s light poured into the sanctuary of the church during his memorial, extending out onto the sidewalk and down the block.
Family and faith were the driving force in Jimmy’s life and he lead those around him with a quiet confidence and kindness, evidenced by the hundreds of letters and cards written by students, teachers, and coaches following his passing. The Graves family wishes to continue that legacy of reflecting light, creating the Jimmy Graves Foundation to leave a lasting imprint upon Vero Beach and Indian River County.
In 2017, the County Commissioners voted unanimously to sell a 11.6 acres of fields property adjacent to the Vero Beach High School football stadium to the Jimmy Graves Foundation. The fields have been well-loved by the children and athletes of our area for many years, holding a sentimental value that Jimmy’s family understood only too well. As a parent who had watched his children play on the very same fields, Joseph H. Graves, father of Jimmy and President of the Foundation, made a commitment to Indian River County that the land would continue to be used for the benefit of young people and their families. Over the past year, the Foundation has put a strong, supportive board in place and work was started to transform the site into the beginnings of what will ultimately become a complex utilized by many segments of the community and surrounding area.
In 2018, the Foundation’s direction became clear. As a reflection of Jimmy Graves, the Foundation selected programming to forward the mission of the organization: to engage and empower youth leadership.