Kayla Jones Memorial Ride comes to end | News, Sports, Jobs

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Kayla Jones passed away at age 15 following a car accident on Dec. 26, 2007. Since 2009, her parents have hosted a scholarship ride every summer to raise money for a scholarship in her name. Over the last 13 years, $610,000 of scholarships have been awarded to 414 local high school graduating seniors.

All good things must come to an end, and for Heather and Mark Farrell, who organize the annual Kayla Jones Memorial Scholarship Ride in honor of their late daughter, it’s best to end on a high note.

For more than a decade, members of the local and surrounding communities have come into Fort Dodge on their motorcycles to ride to various area bars and restaurants, raising money for a scholarship fund to honor Jones’ memory. On Friday, her parents told The Messenger that the 2021 scholarship ride was the last.

Jones was 15 when she passed away after an auto accident on Dec. 26, 2007. She was a sophomore at Fort Dodge Senior High and the daughter of the Farrells and Todd and Becky Jones of Fort Dodge.

Heather Farrell should have watched her daughter graduate with the FDSH Class of 2010. Instead, she gave $10,000 in scholarships to her daughter’s former classmates in Jones’ honor.

In the 12 years of the scholarship rides, $610,000 has been raised for scholarships for graduating seniors at FDSH and St. Edmond Catholic School. Over the years, 414 scholarships, ranging from $500 to $2,000, have been awarded.

Though she died tragically young, Jones’ memory won’t fade any time soon.

“The Kayla Jones Memorial Scholarship was more than her name,” said Chelsea Bacon DeKruif, a 2010 recipient of the scholarship. “It was the community involvement, kindness, joy, and honor to serve that Kayla did and continued to share through the work of her family. As Kayla’s cousin, part of her graduating class and prior recipient of the scholarship, it was a privilege to contribute to my future the heart and soul that the scholarship was built on and from.”

Presenting the graduates with their scholarships on Class Night every spring was a rewarding experience, Heather Farrell said.

The idea for a Memorial Ride fundraiser in Jones’ name came from family friends Justin and Beth Spencer.

“We just kind of ran with it and none of us really knew what we were doing,” Heather Farrell said. “We just kind of flew by the seat of our pants.”

That first year felt like a huge success, she said, because they were able to raise $10,000 and give away 20 scholarships.

“And each year from that very first year, every single year it grew and more people showed up,” Heather Farrell said.

In the early years of the memorial scholarship rides, they’d know most of the people who came out for it, Mark Farrell said. By the last few years, the event had grown so much that people from all over the state would bring their motorcycles in for the ride.

During the ride in August 2021, they raised $70,000 for the scholarship fund. The successes of the events are thanks to the businesses and community members who have sponsored the event and donated toward the cause, Heather Farrell said.

“We’re super thankful and grateful for the outpouring of support that the entire community has provided to us,” she said.

With the rides being held every August, Heather and Mark Farrell would spend nearly the entire summer planning and preparing for the event. It’s a big undertaking and part of the reason they’ve decided to hang up their hats.

“We figure we’re at the top of our game — we’ve given away $70,000 over the last three or four years,” Mark Farrell said.

“It’s been an amazing ride,” Heather Farrell added. “This is definitely bittersweet and a big chapter to close, but we’re so very humbled and grateful for the success and the generations that Kayla’s life and legacy have touched.”

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