A new scholarship program at Bladen Community College will pay tribute to the memory of a “friend and family member who, in his short life, touched the lives of so many in such a special way.”
That’s how Evelyn Merritt described her late son, Mike, when the family and friends presented a check for $5,000 to BCC President Dr. William Findt to establish the fund. In an interview after accepting the check, Findt said he is gratified that the group has chosen to honor the memory of their loved one by providing a scholarship to a worthy Bladen County resident.
“The college is pleased that the family and friends have so generously worked to endow a scholarship that will live on for many years in memory of Mike, who was obviously so very special to so many friends and family members,” he said.
The idea of providing a scholarship to the Bladen Community College Foundation began as the result of a chance conversation between longtime BCC Counselor Sally Valentiner and Mrs. Merritt at a local hamburger restaurant.
According to Valentiner, Merritt stated that she and her husband, Willie, were interested in establishing a scholarship in memory of her son, who had died at age 33 of a rare heart condition on February 7, 2007.
Valentiner passed the information on to BCC Foundation Executive Director Stephen Prince, who contacted the Merritts and that literally set the “wheels in motion.” The family, along with a number of friends, decided to take a motorcycle trip and fun day to Cliffs of the Neuse State Park in southern Wayne County to raise funds for the scholarship.
The turnout for the event proved to be a huge success, according to Mrs. Merritt. Not only did the motorcade involve more than 60 motorcycles, it involved more than 20 automobiles as well.
“Mike was so loved by so many and after he died suddenly last year, they wanted to do something special to keep his memory alive,” she explained. “He was so much a part of the community in every way.
“He was a fireman, a first responder, and worked for the Town of White Lake. I believe he was so well liked because he was always helping people. You might say, that was what he was all about — helping people. This scholarship will help deserving students from Bladen County with their college expenses. That goes right along with the theme of his life — helping others.”
Merritt praised the efforts of Dale and Joan Brennan, along with their daughter, Megan, for heading up the event.
“They are really the ones who started it and got it rolling,” she said. “Without them, we never could have pulled it together.”
Prince praised the dedication and enthusiasm of the group in their fund-raising effort.
“I was overwhelmed by the show of support for this event,” said Prince. “It was obvious that Mike had been such an important part of the lives of those who participated. The fellowship enjoyed by all was something to behold.”