Scholarships Given in Name of Flight 5191 Victims

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Barbara Thomason knew giving away the first scholarship named after her daughter Marcie would be difficult. But the reality of awarding the initial Marcie Reynolds Thomason Student-Athlete Award proved to be harder than she thought, because it meant acknowledging that her daughter was gone.

Marcie Thomason was one of 49 people killed when Comair Flight 5191 crashed shortly after takeoff at Blue Grass Airport last August. And though in many ways Barbara Thomason says she's gotten over the shock of her daughter's death, the night of the awards ceremony was an emotional one.

"(It) was really bittersweet because not only was it an opportunity to hold an award and remember Marcie, but it was also a very public acknowledgment that she's gone and she's not coming back," Barbara Thomason said.

The Thomason family decided to start the scholarship while driving past Henry Clay High, Marcie's alma mater. The scholarship gives $2,500 to an outstanding senior student-athlete at the school. "When one of us mentioned it, it was a no-brainer," Barbara Thomason said.

The Thomasons aren't the only ones who are turning the pain of their loss into an investment in the future of high school students’ country. At least seven scholarships have been created to honor crash victims, while several other foundations are planning to follow suit.

The families of Jonathan Hooker and Scarlett Parsley Hooker joined together to begin a $500 scholarship to two graduating seniors at North Laurel County High, which they both attended.

"It's something to pay back the community for everything they have contributed," said Kim Hooker, Jonathan's mother. "Jon and Scarlett both were the type of children - they really cared about people and wanted to help people and knew the financial struggles college students had. They just wanted to help people."

The scholarships can work twofold. In addition to helping take some of the financial burden off college-bound seniors, it allows the families to honor the victims in a positive way.

"I think for sure it's been part of the healing process," said Kevin Winters, who created a scholarship for his daughter Paige. Still, it hasn't made the awarding of the initial scholarships easy, for the families or the students who receive them.

Henry Clay senior Leah Volk was friends with one of Marcie Thomason's younger sisters. That friendship made her feel a little uncomfortable initially about applying for the scholarship. Now, though, she calls it "the greatest honor I've ever received."

"It was really cool to be connected with (the Thomasons) because I've always looked up to them," said Volk, who will attend Georgetown University in the fall.

The Thomasons called Volk an "amazing young woman," one they're happy to be helping even as it reminds them of their loss. "To this day there's some moments when it just doesn't seem real," Barbara Thomason said.

- Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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