Richard Studebaker was like many other young adults in this Jewish Community. He enrolled his son Sid at the Hebrew Academy of Tidewater (HAT), supported the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, went on a Tel Aviv mission with the Young Adult Division of the UJFT in 2006, and regularly attended Temple Israel. He never thought he’d find himself in need of financial assistance. Then his life changed dramatically in February, 2010: he had a stroke.

Studebaker grew up in Denver and came to this area when he joined the Navy.  A fireman by training and a self-employed entrepreneur, Richard bought restaurants and apartments, and ended up buying a Subway franchise in 1999. He decided to sell the franchise and invest in some real estate in 2006, just before the recession, which he says was “unfortunate timing.”  One of the pieces of property he bought was a Tropical Smoothie, and running this business became his sole income source in 2009.

His assets already decreasing because of the recession, Studebaker had a sudden stroke a year later. The stroke caused by an undetected heart defect, had devastating timing. “It was a perfect storm and was absolutely devastating, both to me and my family,” says Studebaker, who, after 18 months, speaks nearly perfectly, after 18 months but still has no sensation on his right side. His intense daily physical and speech therapy sessions were draining, both financially and physically.

Richard’s wife, Paula, who had not been part of the business, was suddenly running things. “I hadn’t been involved with Tropical Smoothie, and suddenly I had 12 employees who expected their paychecks, a shop to run, and an incapacitated husband.” And that same week, Sid’s reenrollment package for HAT was due.

Sid, who started at HAT in kindergarten, was thriving in its small, nurturing environment, and his parents fully expected to keep him there through graduation. HAT had helped the family with some financial aid before Studebaker’s stroke, but more scholarship money would be needed for him to stay on through graduation. “The school stepped in on so many levels,” says Paula Studebaker. “Teachers made sure that Sid was keeping up with his work, the office staff asked for updates on how Rich was doing, and the finances we needed to cover Sid’s education came through. They took care of us. HAT was not only his school family but ours as well.”

Now in middle school at Norfolk Collegiate, Sid Studebaker is a great student, say his proud parents, thanks to  a solid foundation from his early education at HAT. “Every day, we are grateful for HAT, and what they gave our family.”

The United Jewish Federation of Tidewater allocates funds to HAT’s Scholarships and Operations, Hebrew and Judaic Studies. For more information about the 2012 Campaign, which raises funds for both local and overseas agencies, please contact Anna Goldenberg, Director of Institutional Development, at 965-6136 or visit

Orignally published in the Jewish News

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