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Fund honors Navy dentist police say was killed in murder-suicide

Claire VanLandingham appeared in a video that encouraged viewers to support a Take Back the Night march against domestic violence and sexual abuse.

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By SUE LOUGHLIN | The Tribune-Star | Published: August 14, 2018

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (Tribune News Service) — Claire VanLandingham's promising life was cut short in January, but the legacy of the Navy dentist continues through a nonprofit fund established in her honor.

The #BeMoreLikeClaire fund was established by her mother, Shannon VanLandingham, through the Douglas County Community Foundation in Lawrence, Kansas. The first grant was used to purchase a dental clinic van for an outreach program that serves uninsured children in several counties.

Claire, no doubt, would have approved. During her four years of dental school, she worked in clinics offering services to low-income and disabled citizens who would otherwise have no access.

Claire, 27, was killed by an ex-boyfriend on Jan. 3 in Lake Forest, Ill.; she was the victim of an apparent murder-suicide, authorities said.

In the aftermath of her death, family and friends came together to create #BeMoreLikeClaire as a way for those who loved her and even those who never met her to pool their efforts to continue the work she planned to do in her life.

The fund will support initiatives that increase access to food, housing, and health care; promote mentoring and leadership development; work to end relationship violence; and create a healthier environment.

The 2018 grant recipient, the Douglas County Dental Clinic in Kansas, has been selected and the process is closed for this year. Those interested in applying for a grant in 2019 should check back later this year at www.bemorelikeclaire.org.

"We are hoping grant recipients will be from all the places Claire's life touched," said Shannon. The fund is under the Douglas County Community Foundation 501c3 umbrella, "but our grants can go anywhere we want them to go ... My board and I have complete control over that."

Funds will go to "worthy, nonprofit causes" providing services important to Claire.

"We want the reach to be as far as it can go," Shannon said.

Despite Claire's tragic death, the #BeMoreLikeClaire fund is a way to turn her tragic death into something positive, Shannon said.

According to the website, "To know Claire was to know love in action. Her compassion, her ability to see the needs of others, her bravery, her joy, and her goodness were the natural contours of her short but meaningful life. She was a bright light and had big plans to make the world a more fair, compassionate, and loving place for all people."

At the time of her death, Claire was a Navy lieutenant and recent dental school graduate who had started working at Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, providing dental care to recruits at nearby Naval Station Great Lakes.

In awarding the first #BeMoreLikeClaire grant to the Kansas dental clinic, Shannon VanLandingham stated, "We are thrilled to support DCDC and their work to eliminate barriers to dental care. Claire believed that quality health and dental care should be available to all. She had been accepted into the Johns Hopkins Master of Public Health Program with the goal of affecting policy in order to make quality health and dental care available to all people. Granting funds to purchase the Friendly Smiles van is the perfect way to kick off this new project and to carry on Claire's legacy."

For more information about the fund, visit www.bemorelikeclaire.org or follow on Facebook at BeMoreLikeClaire.

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