Make-A-Wish campaign honors memory of 8-year-old Olivia Schneider

A Make-A-Wish- campaign has begun in the name of Olivia Schneider that seeks to raise $150,000 to send children facing critical illnesses to Walt Disney World in Florida. Schneider and her mother, Rebecca Pletnewski were killed Nov. 20 in their Mayfield Heights home. A neighbor has been arrested as a suspect.

MAYFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — A Chardon businessman is attempting to turn tragedy into hope as he seeks to honor the memory of an employee’s daughter.

It was on Nov. 20 that Rebecca Pletnewki’s Mayfield Heights home was set ablaze after the woman had been stabbed and strangled to death. Upstairs, Pletnewski’s 8-year-old daughter, Olivia Schneider, slept. Olivia died after she was overcome by smoke from the fire.

Dominique Swopes, 27, who lived next door, has been charged with aggravated murder and aggravated arson in the killings of the mother and daughter. The deaths of Pletnewski, 41, and Olivia shocked the community and led to an outpouring of care and support for the family.

David Payne, president of Payne & Payne Renovations and Design, has employed Olivia’s father, Kurt Schneider, of Lakewood, for the past two years. Payne has also been associated for the past six years with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, serving as regional board chair.

Make-A-Wish is the foundation that, through donations and volunteer help, grants the wishes of critically ill children.

Payne, along with Dean Tompkins, president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Cleveland, decided to do something in Olivia’s name to help future young people battling serious health challenges.

Together, they formed a donation drive through Make-A-Wish that is seeking to raise $150,000. Olivia had dreamed of visiting the Walt Disney World Resort. The online campaign is devoted to fulfilling other children’s wishes to visit Walt Disney World in Florida.

“Olivia was such a positive, joy-filled little girl and we would love to honor her as such,” Payne said in a Make-A-Wish press release. “That’s where we would like your help.

“One of Olivia’s favorite phrases was ‘Be kind and your world will be like a rainbow.’ Please help us honor Olivia’s legacy and make Olivia’s beautiful dream a reality.”

When contacted by phone, Payne said: “We were just devastated to hear the news (of Olivia’s death). Kurt is still very much grieving.

“This campaign is about helping to honor her and bring other kids joy in her name. Kurt loved the idea.”

The campaign launched Dec. 21 and has thus far raised more than $19,000 in donations — 13 percent of its goal.

Payne knows first hand the good that can come from granting a child’s wish.

“I first heard of Make-A-Wish when I was a kid (of 14) and my brother, Brian, had what we thought was a terminal illness,” Payne said. Brian Payne fulfilled his wish by visiting Disney World. He has since made a full recovery from his illness.

“He’s doing fine now and living here in Cleveland,” Payne said.

To read more about the campaign In Memory of Olivia Ruth Schneider, and to donate, visit okiwish.me/olivia.

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