David Sheehan Establishes Endowment in Memory of his Daughter Karly


Karly and David

Karly Sheehan was born January 4, 2002, to Sarah and David Sheehan. David remembers his daughter fondly: “She was a real joy from the outset—really easy going, great sense of humor. She had an innate sense of kindness even when she was one.” When Karly moved from one daycare room to the other, she always went over to check on the newborn babies.

When she was older, she would mediate disputes between kids. Smiling, David clarifies: “There were times when she caused disputes, too, don’t get me wrong, but she progressed to mediating. She was just really kind, very bright, very talkative.”

David was born and raised in Kenmare, Ireland, and went to college in Limerick, graduating in 1996 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He began working for Hewlett-Packard in Ireland a couple weeks after graduating. In 1996, he came to Corvallis for a nine-month training period, and then commuted between the sites for a few years before obtaining a full-time position in Corvallis in 1999. He left Hewlett-Packard in 2004 to take a job at ATS Systems Oregon as a project manager.

After Karly was born, David and his wife Sarah divorced and shared custody of their daughter. On June 3, 2005, Karly died from abuse by Sarah’s boyfriend, Shawn Wesley Field. Field was sentenced to life in prison for the crime.

The community was shocked and deeply sympathetic to David in the aftermath of the tragedy. In an initial outpouring of compassion from community members, he received numerous donations along with sympathy cards, and he wanted to use those donations for a good cause. He decided he wanted to use the money, plus some funds of his own, to build a small playground in Avery Park where he and Karly had spent many happy hours. He approached the Corvallis Parks & Recreation Dept., and they completely supported the idea.

David was planning and installing the playground during preparations for the trial that sent Karly’s murderer to prison. “It was a positive experience during such a dark period. It was a ray of hope in that respect,” he said.

The playground was ready for eager young children to test it out by spring 2006. A small plaque with a ladybug on it serves as a cheerful reminder of Karly’s playful spirit. “Karly was all about ladybugs. We’d go play in fields and we’d have ladybugs crawling all over each of us—as many as we could find,” said David.

Once that project was complete, David still wanted to do more. About that time his friend, John Hogan, held a spaghetti feed to raise funds for ongoing maintenance of the play structure. The fundraiser was quite successful. After giving it some thought, David got John’s agreement to divert the funds collected to another purpose, and instead enrolled some friends to perform annual maintenance on the playground. In addition, David’s sister participated in a 10K run in Ireland as a fundraiser, and David had some money set aside for Karly’s college fund. Together with another personal donation, he had enough to create an endowment to memorialize his beloved daughter.

David first considered setting up his own nonprofit corporation, but discovered it would be a time-consuming undertaking and he felt his time would be better spent focusing on his job and earning money to put toward the fund. When several people mentioned the Benton County Foundation, David researched it and decided it would serve his purpose quite well.

David wants to do what he can to make sure other children don’t get caught in the same situation Karly faced in her short life. He named ABC House, CASA—Voices for Children, and Linn Benton Foodshare as beneficiaries of the fund. “I think every kid should have an equal shot at life. I think it’s a pretty sad reflection of our society that there are certain fundamentals that kids just don’t have. I just wanted to try to do a little bit to level that playing field. Hopefully these three agencies will be able to benefit from the endowment,” he said.