It’s a celebration of life, and a somber reflection on how young lives lost leave an everlasting legacy. And it’s a tribute to a community’s determination to find the silver lining in the darkest of clouds.
The 21st annual Angels of ’97 Spaghetti Dinner and Angels 5K Run/Walk/Bark, to be held Saturday, March 18, at North Mecklenburg High School, is all of these things, and more.
The Angels of ’97 organization was created as a relief valve, a form of distraction, for family members, friends and compassionate volunteers amid the unimaginable devastation surrounding the deaths of five students — Laura Barnette, Travis Childers, Calvin Keziah, Mandi Meador and Kancham Potts — who would have been members of the North Mecklenburg High Class of 1997. In the years since, while adopting 76 additional “Angels” who left lingering impressions in the expanding north Mecklenburg community, the program has grown into a pillar of philanthropic dedication that honors those lost by helping others with scholarships.
“It is difficult to describe,” Cami Meador, a current member of the Angels of ’97 board of directors who was 14 when her older sister, Mandi, and her friend, Laura Barnette —two of the original Angels — were killed in a car wreck on Kerns Road, says about the organization’s evolution. “Some days it is overwhelming to think about the reasons this came about, and other days it is humbling to realize how far it has come.
“When this started,” she continues, “I think it was a type of emotional escape, a way to feel like you could control some aspect of your life, a way to do something. But now, as a mother myself with a better perspective on what my mother and other families endured, understanding the way everyone somehow came together to create something so positive, it’s amazing.”
Since it began, Angels of ’97 has awarded college scholarships totaling nearly $700,000 to 202 recipients from high schools in the north Mecklenburg area. The spaghetti dinner has been the mainstay of fundraising activities for the completely volunteer, non-profit organization, with additional events, like the Angels 5K and a fall golf tournament, being added to help generate more support for the Angels of ’97 Memorial Scholarship Fund.
The program has provided scholarships to students from North Meck, Hough and Hopewell high schools and, this year, is opening the application process to students from all area high schools.
Events on Saturday begin with the 5K, and servings of all-you-can-eat spaghetti, salad and bread start at 11 a.m. and continue until 7 p.m. There will be entertainment and activities throughout the day, including a live auction at 6 p.m. Tickets for dinner cost $5, the same price as the first Angels of ’97 dinner, and additional contributions are always welcome. Complete details about the dinner, 5K registration and other Angels of ’97 programs, including scholarship application procedures, are available at Angelsof97.com and at Angels5K.com.