Keeping Melissa Jenkins' memory alive - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Keeping Melissa Jenkins' memory alive

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Melissa Jenkins Melissa Jenkins
DANVILLE, Vt. - "She helped everyone and didn't expect anything back," Kaylynn Zangla said.

Zangla was a high school junior who looked up to fellow Danville school alum Melissa Jenkins when the 33-year-old disappeared in 2012 and was found murdered days later.

"It was scary, very scary," Zangla said. "I didn't understand why it was happening to her, because of how I knew her. I knew her as a great person. And for someone who was so great, why was something so bad happening to her?"

Now heading into her sophomore year in college, Zangla got some help with her education from the Melissa Jenkins Memorial Scholarship Fund.

"Made me feel honored," Zangla said.

"Still hard to think about, so we just try to shift the focus on how she lived her life," Kristin Franson said.

Franson and Melissa Jenkins were best friends. Franson now raises money for the scholarship fund and is organizing a 5K fun run this Saturday.

"I just hate that there is an association between her and the ugliness," she said.

Franson sees the scholarship as a way to help talented, outgoing Danville students, while at the same time shift attention from the couple charged with murder back to the life Melissa led.

Like many in this tightknit town, she hurts each time there's a new twist in the case or delay in the trials.

"The initial feeling is sickening, and of course disgust, anger. And there is still an air of just it's just unbelievable, it's just unbelievable that it even happened," Franson said.

"From my perspective it's tough; I can't imagine what the family goes through," Guy Pearce said.

Pearce was Melissa and Kristin's soccer coach. He presents the scholarship to one Danville student each year. And is not alone in town wishing the criminal cases were finally closed.

"We want the trial, we want the trial over with because there's a lot of stuff that's going to come out in the trial that's really going to affect people," Pearce said.

The first trial may happen this fall. Both have been moved to Chittenden County after concerns about finding an impartial jury. Kristin Franson has not decided if she could handle hearing all the testimony.

"I don't want to think about it, too hard to think about," she said.

So while Melissa's loved ones wait, they work to celebrate her life. The scholarship fund is almost self-sustaining and organizers hope they can soon award money to more than one Danville student each year. Recipients have to show the same qualities Melissa did; she was helpful and outgoing, but also an athlete who showed grit.

"She was one of the toughest, most aggressive players I had," Pearce said. "She would play through pain; she would tough it out."

Kaylynn Zangla played soccer, basketball and softball just like Melissa, and is studying health science. But she is not sure yet where that will lead.

"Not sure, but I know I want to help people any way that I can," Zangla said.

An attitude friends say Melissa had.

"You know, we want to celebrate her and her zest for life and her energy," Franson said. "She was just a beautiful person."

For more about Saturday's 5K race and the Melissa Jenkins Memorial Scholarship:

Melissa Jenkins Memorial Fun Run on Aug 9 -- http://danwyandpt.com/funrun.html

Melissa Jenkins Memorial Scholarship Fund -- https://www.facebook.com/MelissaJenkinsScholarshipFund?filter=2

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