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Celebration of slain dog’s life brings community together 1 year later

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published March 2, 2020

 The Sterling’s Legacy celebration at Grant Park in Utica Feb. 16 included gift basket raffles and a 50/50 raffle in which people could bring items to donate and receive a raffle ticket  in exchange. The event began at a statue erected in Sterling’s honor in the park.

The Sterling’s Legacy celebration at Grant Park in Utica Feb. 16 included gift basket raffles and a 50/50 raffle in which people could bring items to donate and receive a raffle ticket in exchange. The event began at a statue erected in Sterling’s honor in the park.

Photo provided by Sandy Isaacs

UTICA  — Just over a year after the vicious attack that killed a dog named Sterling in Grant Park in Utica, a celebration in remembrance of the dog’s life and his impact on the community was held Feb. 16 at the park.

After the attack in 2019, a group called Sterling’s Legacy formed to remember the dog.

Sterling’s Legacy hosted the special gathering, Sterling’s Celebration of Life, which it hopes will become an annual event. It began at a statue carved from a tree trunk in the park that was created as a memorial for Sterling.

Sandy Isaacs, who is one of the four people who manage Sterling’s Legacy, said that after the trial for Sterling’s killer, who was sentenced to three to six years in prison last April, they just couldn’t let the dog’s legacy end in sadness.

“After the trial ended last year, Sterling’s Legacy refused to let Sterling’s death be in vain; they were determined to make good things come from it; they wanted that to be his legacy — not his brutal murder. And that’s exactly what they’ve done. The group of almost 3,000 animal advocates have continued to offer a variety of support to others in need — financially and otherwise — in Sterling’s memory. And they’re just getting started. The group hopes to obtain 501(c)(3) status in the near future,” said Isaacs.

The celebration included gift basket raffles and a 50/50 raffle. Guests were asked to bring a new pet item or personal hygiene item for donation, and they received one free gift basket raffle ticket for each item they brought.

Items donated by those who attended the event went in Sterling’s name to the new Woman’s Life Chapter 911 Hygiene Pantry and the Humane Society of Macomb — both in Shelby Township. The event also raised some funds for future support of animals or people in need.

“We raised $178 from the Sterling’s Celebration of Life event, but have not done a full inventory of all the donated hygiene and pet items yet (but there were a lot!),” said Isaacs.

According to the group, proceeds from the remembrance event will be used for a memorial or plaque for Mike Shereda — who was slain in the same park — to accompany his memorial tree at Grant Park. The proceeds also will be used for sponsoring adoption fees for shelter animals in Shereda’s and Sterling’s names, and to continue the group’s mission of doing as much good as it can, for as many as it can, all in Sterling’s memory.

“In the year since the trial ended, we’ve consistently been doing good things in Sterling’s memory, with hopes of doing more and more, and doing bigger things. So far, we supported the Shereda family during the trial of Mike Shereda’s murderer through moral support to the family, letter writing to the prosecuting attorney and judge, starting and circulating a petition asking for first-degree murder charges, which was successful because he was convicted of first-degree murder and did not get off on an insanity plea,” Isaacs said.

She said that although the event is in memory of Sterling, the group does not want his legacy to be sadness. They want it to be a happy celebration of his life.

“This was all happening because Sterling lived. Someone else’s life will be a little better because he lived. Being a part (of) his legacy — seeing it in action and being honored to be a part of it — is something too big and too good to even find words to describe.”

Gus Calandrino, a Utica city councilman, attended the event and has seen firsthand what the Sterling’s Legacy group has accomplished.

“The people who are involved with the Facebook group ‘Sterling’s Legacy’ have worked very hard to take the tragic losses of Mike Shereda and Sterling and make positive change,” said Calandrino.

He said he looks forward to seeing the group continue to do good things.

“It’s all about, ‘How do we move forward when terrible things happen?’ The love the Sterling’s Legacy group has shown the Shereda family, the city of Utica and Grant Park has been inspiring. I look forward to continuing to meet with them and plan future events in Grant Park,” said Calandrino.

Recently, the Detroit Institute of Arts selected Utica for the Inside|Out art program, and according to the group, the DIA is going to put a reproduced painting in Grant Park near Sterling’s tree sculpture and also one near Shereda’s memorial tree.

For more information on Sterling’s Legacy, visit www.facebook.com/groups/SterlingsLegacy.