"It's still very difficult. I cant speak for everybody obviously, but its still fresh for me," said Kristin Wyand Franson.
More than a year later, Melissa Jenkins' loved ones are still trying to make sense of her senseless death. "It's very difficult, but we love Melissa and we would have done anything for her when she was here, and we're going to do whatever we can to keep her memory alive now," Wyand Franson said.
Kristin Wyand Franson met Jenkins more than a decade ago when they were classmates at the Danville School. She and other friends and family are working to honor the teacher's legacy with a 5K run this Saturday. It benefits the Danville School's Melissa Jenkins Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Organizing the fundraiser is a way Wyand Franson and others work through their grief. "It makes you feel that you're doing something positive," Wyand Franson said. And it's a way to shift the media spotlight back to Melissa, away from court delays in the murder case. "I would just really hope that when people think of Melissa they don't think of how her life ended. I would like to think that people would think of how she lived her life."
The scholarship is awarded to seniors at the Danville school who are heading to college and aiming for a career working with kids -- the focus of Jenkin's personal and professional lives. "Melissa was fun loving and high energy and she really believed in education," Wyand Franson said. "I mean she was getting her masters from St. Mikes, as you know, and teaching at the academy and coaching. And once she had Ty, she just -- it was all about kids."
"It was a terrible shock to the community when she died," said Lois White of Peacham.
Businesses and residents are responding to the fundraiser as a welcome way to turn a tragedy into something positive.
"It's really special, the school has done lots of fundraisers in Melissa's honor as well, so my daughter knows who Melissa Jenkins is, even though she's just little. She knows about giving back to the community and what that means to them," said Jen Larrabee, a Danville resident.
Wyand Franson and Jenkins used to say they were sisters, and she knows Melissa would have done the same for her. "We just want to do something to honor her," she said. "We want to do something we think Melissa would be proud of."
The 5K is Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at the Sugar Ridge Campground in Danville. There are also kid friendly activities and games planned. Organizers hope to raise more than the 34-hundred dollars they raised last year. All proceeds benefit the Melissa Jenkins Scholarship Fund and Danville School.
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