Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Franklin County High School group finds unity amid wounds
The Wounded Eagle Fund took flight after a deadly Franklin County car crash and continues to help high school students who are hurting.
Photos by Kyle Green | The Roanoke Times
Christian LaPrad, pictured here in a metal shop room at Franklin County High School's West Campus, survived a deadly car wreck in Franklin County last year. He helped found the Wounded Eagle Fund to provide assistance to other students in need.
Christian LaPrad (from left), Kontessa Kinsey and FFA adviser Jean Capps talk about a benefit concert being held to raise funds for the Wounded Eagle Fund. The concert is Friday at 7 p.m. in the Franklin County High School auditorium.
The Franklin County FFA Officer Team and some of the local musicians who will take part in a Wounded Eagle Fund benefit concert gather at Franklin County High School to discuss plans for the event. The bands have agreed to perform for free.
If you go
Benefit concert for Wounded Eagle Fund
- What: Six local bands
- When: Friday, doors open at 7 p.m.
- Where: Franklin County High School Auditorium
- Admission: $5; Donations to the Wounded Eagle Fund can be mailed to Franklin County High School, 700 Tanyard Road, Rocky Mount, VA 24151
Christian LaPrad, 18, said he recalls nothing about the horrific car crash one year ago today that took the life of a friend and fellow student at Franklin County High School and forever altered LaPrad's life and the lives of innumerable others.
"I remember getting in the car and then waking up two nights later in the hospital," LaPrad said.
He spoke Tuesday morning during an interview about a benefit concert scheduled at the high school Friday to raise money for a fund established in the tragedy's wake.
Kontessa Kinsey, 18, remembered that immediately following the wreck last year people told her family to prepare for the worst. The crash on Booker T. Washington Highway grievously injured her twin brother, Cole, then 17, a back seat passenger like LaPrad.
"They told us he wasn't going to make it from the car to the hospital," Kinsey said. "Then they told us he wasn't going to make it out of ICU."
He was unrecognizable, she said.
"The only way we could identify him was by his tattoo," she said.
LaPrad and Kontessa Kinsey share a key memory from that time. Both said that they and their families were deeply moved when members of the high school's Future Farmers of America chapter created a fund to help the four students together that day in the Mercury Cougar and their families try to cope with the wreck's wrenching aftermath.
Kinsey, an FFA member, said the chapter was and is like family for her.
Initially, the Wounded Eagle Fund focused on raising money for the families of Kinsey, LaPrad, Zach Parsons, 17, who died in the crash, and Marina Snyder, 17, the driver that afternoon.
But the fund's mission expanded quickly to raising money and offering assistance to other students attending Franklin County High School, home of the Eagles, and their families. Six students received offers of help last year. One had cancer. In most cases, the Wounded Eagle Fund offered meal and gas cards worth about $500.
Teacher Diane Cannaday, chairwoman of the high school's agriculture department and an FFA adviser, said in one case a payment was made directly to a medical provider.
Two families declined the help, suggesting there were likely others who needed it more, Cannaday said.
She said fellow teacher of agriculture and FFA adviser Heather McAndrew reported that Snyder's father wept when she delivered the meals and gas cards.
Marina Snyder pleaded guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter and was consigned in October to the Department of Juvenile Justice until she is 21.
Prosecutors said she was traveling upwards of 100 mph Jan. 23 when the car she was driving sideswiped a Scion and hit a Dodge Dakota pickup head-on.
LaPrad said he was still hospitalized last year when the idea for a benefit concert for the then-fledgling Wounded Eagle Fund occurred to him.
He plays drums and other percussion instruments for Cry For Salvation, a Christian rock band that will be one of six bands scheduled to perform Friday night in the high school auditorium. All the bands have ties to the school, he said, and have agreed to play for free.
The other bands set to play are The Gaffer Project, Kerosene Willy, Beandawg Mountain Boys, Scythe of Cronus and Joon D. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 and will be sold at the door. All proceeds will go to the Wounded Eagle Fund.
Cannaday said the fund is managed by the high school, and a committee identifies students who demonstrate the sort of need that warrants an offer of assistance.
The FFA organized two fundraising events last year that yielded a total of about $7,000.
On Tuesday, a day off for students, a number of officers and members of the FFA, as well as several band members, gathered at the school's West Campus at 10 a.m. to talk about the fund and the concert.
Kontessa Kinsey had started the day at 2:30 a.m., milking cows at the family's Rippledale Dairy near Boones Mill. Like her brother, who was home schooled during a period of his prolonged recovery, and like LaPrad, she is now a senior at Franklin County High School.
Cannaday and colleague Jean Capps and West Campus interim administrator Robbie Dooley expressed admiration Tuesday not only for the work of the FFA members but also for the high school's full student body.
"FFA is a big family, and Franklin County High School is a big family," Capps said.
"I've worked in other school systems and I've never been around kids like these," he said. "And it's not just a few of them. It's all of them."
Cannaday said the Wounded Eagle Fund emerged from searing heartbreak as something lasting and meaningful.
"You don't often see positive news stories with teenagers at the forefront," she said.