By Jill Richardson
On November 15, 1987, Melba was devastated with the news that Continental Airlines Flight 1713 carrying eight Melba FFA students, their advisor and his wife crashed off the end of the runway at Denver’s Stapleton International Airport. The 10-member group was returning from the National FFA Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. Sherry Nelson, age 18, Janine Ledgerwood, age 17, and Tami Daniel, FFA advisor Dave Daniel’s wife, died in the crash. Seven other members survived the crash. A year after the crash in 1988, the Melba FFA Memorial Fund was established from monetary gifts that were donated in the memory of Nelson, Ledgerwood and Daniel. Over $35,000 was sent to the Melba FFA from generous contributors all across the United States.
Some of the money was used to construct the picnic area on the south lawn of the high school which was recently moved across the parking lot near the baseball field. Additionally, an endowment was established with the remaining funds to award scholarships for students of Melba High. The Fund was incorporated in 1992 and is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a nonprofit tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) charitable organization.
Melba FFA Memorial Fund is now in its 25th year of supporting Melba students in FFA and with college. Memorial Fund board members are appointed for life, a commitment that is taken very seriously. When a member resigns from the board, it is the board member’s honor to select their successor.
This year, for the first time, a change in board members occurred. Danny and Marty Nelson, parents of Sherry Nelson, resigned from the board. Marty selected Brad Huff as her replacement, who was Melba High School student body president and a FFA member the year the plane crash occurred. Kay Roberts Hylton, a strong Melba FFA supporter and former recipient of the fund, was selected to replace Danny Nelson.
“Having the opportunity to join the board means a lot to me. Sherry and Janine were my classmates and friends. The wreck was a huge event to the class,” said Brad Huff.
In 2013, the fund will distribute over $2,200 to Melba students. The board relies upon on contributions from community members and businesses to keep the fund viable. This allows the fund to be able to help Melba FFA students with trip expenses to Nationals, Washington Leadership Conferences, National Soils and with various college scholarships.
Also serving on the board of directors for the past 25 years are crash survivors Wayne Davis, Tony Noe and David Daniel.
According to the board, since 1988 the Fund has distributed $70,250 to 107 Melba High School students for use as college scholarships or to help finance travel expenses to FFA events.
“I think that is quite impressive,” said Marty Nelson.
Tax deductible contributions to the Fund can be made if you are interested in supporting the activities of Melba students. For further information you can contact the Fund secretary David Daniel at 467-1525 and/or check out their Facebook page.