LAKEWOOD RANCH -- When Taylor Emmons was a student at The Out-of-Door Academy, he and a few other students started a weekly backpack program to feed the homeless.
One day after school, he told his father about the backpack program and asked what else they could do to help.
What grew out of that talk was a plan to plant 4,000 Christmas trees on family land in Maine and use the proceeds from the sales locally to help the underprivileged.
Unfortunately, Taylor didn’t live to see that dream come true. He was struck and killed trying to cross a Coral Gables street in 2010. The University of Miami student was just 19.
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Out of that tragedy, his grieving parents, Mike and Katie Emmons of Lakewood Ranch, resolved that they would keep Taylor’s dream alive to help the underprivileged by setting up a foundation in his name.
Recently, the Taylor Emmons Scholarship Fund raised $141,000 at its first Charity Golf Classic and a Texas hold ‘em poker tournament at Lakewood Ranch Country Club.
The money raised will help underprivileged youth gain a college preparatory education at The Out-of-Door Academy at a cost of $18,000 a year.
The first four-year scholarship recipient, Desmond Lindsay of Palmetto, is enrolled as a freshman.
Ultimately, there will be a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior enrolled through the Taylor Emmons Scholarship Fund, in perpetuity. Supporters are working toward building an endowment of $1 million.
“It’s been a very difficult time for us,” Mike Emmons said.
But he calls it “amazing” how the community and school have rallied around his family and the scholarship fund.
“Our No. 1 requirement has been to help the kids that absolutely could not afford to go to that school,” Emmons said.
Attendance at ODA, where 100 percent of graduates go on to college, many on scholarship, can be a life-changer for students who otherwise could not afford the tuition.
David Mahler, head of school at ODA, says he received the call about Taylor’s death on a Sunday morning.
“I was stopped in my tracks. It was a moment in my life I’ll never forget,” Mahler said.
“He was a leader, people naturally followed him and wanted to be around him. He had a huge heart and a huge heart for others,” Mahler said.
Emmons was academically gifted and had been co-captain of the school baseball team, and captain of the golf team.
The tragedy was a parent’s worst nightmare, but the Emmons family managed to find a way to keep Taylor’s desire to help others alive.
“To keep all that Taylor stood for alive forever, that’s an amazing story,” Mahler said.
Sandra Albano, executive director of the Taylor Emmons Scholarship Fund, said in a written statement that while the hole created by his absence can never be filled, the charity event would have made him proud.
For more information about the scholarship fund, visit www.temmons.org.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021. Tweet @jajones1.