Memorial scholarship set to support local student

Earlier this month Team Tara Jean presented this year’s first recipient with a $1,000 scholarship. Pictured, from left to right, are Amber Hawkins, runner-up Bailey Barnes, scholarship recipient Mikia Williams, Ashley Meacham and Amanda Chambliss.

A fundraiser for the Tara McElrath Memorial Scholarship will coincide with the Wills Town Rats’ Bike Night Saturday afternoon at 6 at the Rotary Pavilion in Fort Payne.

When Tara McElrath, of Fort Payne, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, community members, family and friends, also known as Team Tara Jean, rallied to support her. After she died in 2018, Team Tara Jean continued to search for ways to give back to the community in McElrath’s honor.

Recently, the Team Tara Jean committee established the Tara McElrath Memorial Scholarship. Amanda Chambliss, Team Tara Jean member, said the criteria for the scholarship reflects McElrath’s life.

“The criteria for the scholarship is that the student must be a track or cross country athlete, as Tara was,” Chambliss said. “The student must fill out an application and write a short essay, then submit this along with their high school transcript.”

Chambliss said the first recipient of the Tara McElrath Memorial Scholarship was Mikia Williams.

“Team Tara Jean also set up interviews with the applicants who had applied, because it was important to us that we met them in person to make sure they were the type of student Tara would want to represent her,” Chambliss said. “Although it was extremely difficult for us to choose between these wonderful young ladies, we believe Tara would be proud of the recipient we chose, Ms. Mikia Williams.”

Chambliss said fundraisers have already been set in motion to raise money for the 2020 scholarship award.

“Our goal is to raise enough to give a 2020 Fort Payne Graduate a scholarship, and give another scholarship to our 2019 recipient, once she begins her second year of college,” she said. “We plan to continue to provide continued encouragement and support for her until she graduates.”

Fort Payne City Business License Inspector Mike Griggs said Saturday’s Bike Night is the Wills Town Rats’ way of helping to raise funds.

“We are going to do a ride for the Tara Mcelrath Scholarship fund that will be going on at the same time as our Bike Night,” he said.

“There will probably be many fundraisers for the scholarship through the year, but this is our way of helping.”

Griggs said registration for the ride will be at 2:30 p.m., and the ride will take place from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“It’s $20 per person on the bike, and there is a $5 charge for a rider,” he said. “If you have two people then it’s $25. All of that money will go to the fundraiser for the scholarship.”

Griggs said live music will be preformed by Nashville Blues Artist Kenne Cramer and Friends from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free and there will be food and drinks available for purchase. There will also be a raffle and chances to win door prizes, Griggs said.

He said owning a bike is not a requirement to be able to participate in the event.

“This is open to everyone,” he said. “You don’t have to have a motorcycle to be a part of this. We just call it Bike Night, but it is for anyone who wants to come out and be a part of it.

“We encourage people to come out and take part in hearing good music, having good food and raising funds for a good cause.”

There are three categories of raffles with tickets for $5, $10 and $25. Chambliss said raffle tickets can be purchased in advance at High Maintenance Salon in Fort Payne. The drawing will be at the bike night event, but you do not have to be present to win. She said Team Tara Jean will post the drawing on Facebook Live.

The following is a list of items that will be raffled off Saturday:

• a chance to win a three-night stay in a house on Tybee Island. The house is four bedrooms, two and a half bathhouses and sleeps ten. It is located three blocks from the beach and has a game room with a pool table, outdoor grilling kitchen, and a 10-person hot tub.

• a chance to win a guided kayaking trip on Little River for four people. The trip includes kayaks and paddles, which is valued at $140. This prize is donated by One World Adventure.

• a chance to win a Pelican 20-quart Elite Cooler, valued at $150. This prize is donated by Ferguson Distribution Center.

• a chance to win a two-day free equipment rental, valued at $400. This is donated by Southeastern Equipment.

• a chance to win autographed memorabilia from Confederate Railroad.

Other items such as gift certificates to Berry and Dunn Office Equipment, a one-year subscription to the Times-Journal, a membership to Snap Fitness, hair products donated by Lindy Bryant of Blonde Bombshell, products and gift certificates from High Maintenance Salon, and more will be available.

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