DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — Millikin University is making fire safety a priority for students, and the university is collaborating with The Nick Project to create an endowment fund.

Nearly two decades ago, Sophia Schwalbach lost her older brother Nick in an on-campus fraternity house fire. Since that infamous day, she has committed herself to the education and well-being of students so they don’t meet a similar fate.

To ensure that students are well-prepared for any challenges that living alone brings, Schwalbach created The Nick Project in 2015, when she was just a freshman at Millikin.

It initially began as just stand-up education to tell students the risks of housefires and how to prevent them. With the help of the Decatur community, Millikin University, the Fire Safety Alliance and the State Marshals Office, the initiative is now continuing to supply students with free fire prevention necessities. Expensive things such as carbon monoxide detectors, fire detectors, fire extinguishers, and even escape ladders were given away today at the University Center.

Schwalbach said that it was important to supply Millikin students with needs they don’t always think about having.

“I wanted to be able to hand out the fire extinguishers, the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, the escape ladders,” Schwalbach said. “Because I was talking about it so much during my speeches, but the reality is, the cost of those three things are going to be over $100 dollars for each student. And what college student really has those extra funds they’re going to spend?”

It is now a university requirement for off-campus students to attend The Nick Project’s safety course.

“It’s a wonderful program being put on by the university, it’s a great requirement for the students off-campus to be able to have to attend this,” said Phil Zaleski, Executive Director of the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance. “It’s just going to make everybody safer.”

Dale Simpson, the Illinois Fire Marshals’ Chief of Bureau of Operations, said everybody is still learning from Nick’s untimely passing.

“It is so important because what was learned from that event has saved many lives of people coming in.”

The hope is to save more lives through community, university and personal tragedy.

“I feel very fortunate to be able to have this in place and have it so valued by the team here,” Schwalbach said.

Donations are always accepted and encouraged to help the cause grow in coming years. Visit this link to donate.