This October marks two years since a tragic car accident led to the deaths of three University of Mississippi freshmen, yet through family, friendships and the impact Sam Clayton Kelly, Walker Kelly and Mason Wilbanks made in their brief time on campus, their legacy continues.
The three Madison natives had just begun their studies at Ole Miss, yet wasted no time in getting involved on campus, including pledging Kappa Alpha Order.
"All three boys loved Ole Miss and everything about it. They went to events that I frankly didn't even know existed," said Sam Kelly, father of Sam Clayton.
Their real legacy, however, emanates from their optimism and ability to touch the lives of others.
"They were always smiling and upbeat about everything. It was something we could all learn from them and use in our everyday lives," said Kelly. "People were really attracted to them. They wanted to get to know them."
Kappa Alpha Order, with help of the young men's family and friends, raised over $150,000 in their names. The Charles Walker Kelly, Samuel Clayton Kelly, and Bryant Mason Wilbanks Memorial Scholarship is annually awarded to a deserving member of KA.
Harrison Bryant, a senior Accountancy major from Madison, is the 2013 scholarship recipient.
Bryant is among the sixth generation in his family to attend UM. "Receiving this scholarship helps me pay for school and has gone a long way for my family. My younger sister, Emily, is also here at Ole Miss, and having two kids in college is a lot for one family, so I'm grateful to have been chosen for the scholarship."
Bryant said he and his family knew the families of Sam Clayton, Walker and Mason. "They were really good guys," he said, adding that he rushed the three before they joined KA.
As a Kappa Alpha member, Bryant served as a voting delegate at the 75th annual Kappa Alpha Order Convention in San Antonio this past summer and is Head Pledge Trainer this fall.
"I know I can go any day of the week and talk to one of our guys if I need to, and they will look me in the eyes and be there for me. I would do the same for any one of them," Bryant said.
Today the scholarship continues to grow, with KA donating $70,000 this year. Donors and organizers plan to continue their fundraising efforts with hopes to raise the fund to a level that it is not only self-sustaining, but can grow to award three scholarships annually, one in each boy's name.
The fraternity is working on guidelines for awarding scholarships this fall. The endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the Kelly, Kelly and Wilbanks Scholarship noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655; contact Sandra Guest at 662-915-5208 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.