Journalism Next: Cassandra Ratzlaff

Special to the HeraldFebruary 17, 2014 

Out-of-Door Academy alumnus Taylor William Emmons' life was cut short at the age of 19 when he was struck by a vehicle in 2010 while a student at the University of Miami. He would have graduated in 2013.

Taylor's ODA years were filled with good memories. In his senior year in 2009, along with being vice president of his class, Taylor and his baseball team set 14 school records in a single season. He was a beloved son, friend and leader.

In the years since his death, family and friends continue to maintain his legacy through the Taylor Emmons Scholarship Fund.

The Taylor Emmons Scholarship Fund awards a deserving student full tuition for four years to The Out-of-Door Academy.

Junior Desmond Lindsay, recipient of the first scholarship in March 2011, has been a successful honor student and a rising star on the baseball field.

Gifted in sports, academics and music, Sierra Van Such, now in 10th grade, was a great match as the second recipient of the Taylor Emmons Scholarship.

"Sierra read everything she could about Taylor and felt like she knew him," Van Such's mother Sandra said. "They're taking something that's a tragedy and turning

it into something that helps people."

Upon hearing Van Such was awarded the second scholarship ever offered, Katie Emmons, Taylor's mother, exclaimed: "It's a girl!"

When student Cameron Smalley, class of 2017, asked his parents to explore ODA for ninth grade, they said the cost of independent school was beyond their means. Despite this, Cameron spent a day learning about ODA and fell even more in love with the school.

Cameron's dream of going to ODA came true because of the Taylor Emmons Scholarship. When the family and school determined Smalley met ODA qualifications for admission, Cameron applied and became the third recipient of the scholarship. The Taylor Emmons Scholarship Fund plans on fully funding a student at each grade level in the upper school every year.

"(I have) endless thank yous. You don't know what to say. He loves it," said Smalley's mother, Tammy. "It's a huge blessing. The school was so good to them. They wanted to give back and have Taylor's life live on. They think of our kids like their kids."

The Taylor Emmons Foundation recently held the third annual Charity Golf Classic and Poker Night, a fundraiser for the scholarship. Before the tournament, each recipient was introduced to the golfers by David Mahler, ODA headmaster.

The tournament, attracting 253 golfers, was held at the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club on the Cyprus and Kings Dune courses. Any sponsorship that came in was matched by The Emmons family. In previous years, the event has raised more than $100,000.

When asked what to say to the Taylor Emmons Scholarship recipients, Katie Emmons teared up and replied: "(I'm) very thankful. They are the perfect choices, and my son would be very proud."

Information: Call Taylor Emmons Scholarship Foundation Director Sandra Albano, 941-915-9249.

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