Eckerd scholarship awarded, honors perseveranceFundraiser celebration, bike run is June 28
Drug addiction commands such strongholds on its victims that often the cycle of abuse isn’t broken for years. Sometimes it takes the courage and optimism of the next generation to affect change.
That is why local law enforcement is partnering with Eckerd, one of the largest privately funded nonprofit youth and family service organizations, to help raise funds for the Dr. Ann R. Wilke Memorial Scholarship fund.
The Wilke scholarship is unique because it is awarded exclusively to Haywood County youth who have been affected by substance abuse, says Jennifer Stout, Eckerd community intervention manager.
“Our concern is they have the desire to go on, and the desire to break that cycle,” Stout said.
Each scholarship award is $500, and recipients can re-apply for it each year they are in college.
Sheriff Greg Christopher said supporting the scholarship effort is a natural progression in the all-fronts fight against substance abuse in Haywood County.
“It’s particularly important for law enforcement to get involved in this scholarship because these young people have had challenges that made their lives more difficult,” Christopher said. “Because of this scholarship, they will have an opportunity to receive a formal education.”
To understand the hope that opportunities like this can instill, all one has to do is meet this year’s scholarship recipients.
Tabitha Ammons is a 2014 graduate of Central Haywood High School and plans to attend Haywood Community College for two years before transferring to a university. She is interested in the human services field so that she might be able to give back to society and help others.
“There’s always room for change, but you can’t always do it by yourself,” Ammons said. “Determination is a key to success.”
Ashly Lauziere is a 2014 graduate of Haywood Early College who will attend Western Carolina University to major in criminal justice and minor in Spanish. She also has a “pay-it-forward” vision.
“Our lives are precious,” Lauziere said, “So we have to make them matter and make a difference in the lives of others.”
That’s right in keeping with what Bill Wilke says his mother, a small-town cardiologist, also believed. Wilke said his mother was a healer in more ways than one, and the scholarship was created in her honor because, “It was important for my mom to leave a legacy of enabling people to be their absolute best.”
Wilke said that the scholarship focuses on Haywood County because it is where he and his family live, but he envisions the fund one day being capable of providing scholarships all over western North Carolina.
“Haywood County has been affected in recent years by substance abuse and we need to help our youth break the cycle of abuse and gain a higher education,” Wilke said.
To help build up the scholarship fund, there will be a Second Chance Bike Run and Celebration on Saturday, June 28, at the Haywood County Fairgrounds.
The motorcycle ride will begin at Wheels Through Time in Maggie Valley; registration will be from 9 to 10 a.m., and will end at the fairgrounds for a full day of entertainment. There will be bluegrass, gospel and country and western groups playing all day, as well as food and refreshments, a 50/50 raffle, cake walks and more.