Families Honoring Crash Victims Through Scholarships, Donations

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 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.
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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader,
http://www.kentucky.com
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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader,
http://www.kentucky.com

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

AP-NY-06-03-07 1419EDT


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