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One year later, a legacy lives on

Exactly one year since the tragic car accident that took the lives of three Ole Miss students, a lantern release in remembrance of the students will take place for the campus that remains affected by their legacy.

A lantern release tonight at 8:15 p.m. will allow University of Mississippi students to pay respects to and remember three students who were killed one year ago today, showing that the boys’ legacy at Ole Miss has not faded.

On Oct. 30, 2011, Sam Clayton Kelly, Walker Kelly and Mason Wilbanks were killed in a one-vehicle accident on their way back to Oxford after surprising their families with a weekend trip home to Madison.

Anyone who knew the students or who would like to honor them is invited to the intramural fields at 8:15 p.m. to honor the boys and the legacy they left at the university.

Shelby Moore, freshman occupational therapy major and girlfriend of Walker Kelly, created the event.

“This lantern release issomething we have done once a month since the ac- cident in Madison,” Moore said. “We thought it would be good to have it in Oxford this time so that people that were close to the boys could get here easier than it would be if we had it in Madison.”

The boys were driving back to Oxford to attend a fraternity church event when the accident occurred. All three were initiated members of the Kappa Alpha Order (KA) chapter at Ole Miss.

“We are continuing to do some great things in their honor,” said Matthew Jones, senior political science major and KA president. “The accident was really tough for everyone that knew them, but it has made our fraternity so much stronger and such a better family.”

In addition to the lantern release to memorialize the students, KA has established an endowment and schol- arship fund in honor of the three students, contributing about $81,000 to the endowment fund through spring philanthropy earnings. Last spring, KA held a golf tournament and silent auction to raise money for the memorial scholarship fund. A ceremony was held for the families at KA earlier this semester to give the scholarship to a rising senior at Ole Miss.

“That is something that we will be doing for a very long time,” Jones said. “It’s a great way to pay respect and honor to the families of the guys and continue their legacy on this campus.”

One year later, the legacy of the boys still lives on, according to Moore.

“Sam Clayton lived life with a smile on his face and love in his heart,” said Sam Kelly, the father of Sam Clayton Kelly. “The legacy that has been left at Ole Miss and at KA by all of the boys is something that is truly amazing.”

All three students loved Ole Miss, and they were able to leave their mark on the Ole Miss community.

“Mason bled red and blue and loved to put a smile on peoples’ faces,” Ken Wilbanks, father of Mason Wilbanks, said. “The love and support that Ole Miss has shown to us is nothing surprising. It’s simply one big family, there’s no doubt about that.”

The boys also established a lasting legacy at KA.

“Walker had the ability to be a best friend to a lot of different people,” said Chris Kelly, father of Walker Kelly. “The impact he made in his short time at Ole Miss was incredible, and we saw that immediately after the accident.”

Walker Kelly’s younger brother, who is a freshman at Ole Miss, is now a member of KA, and multiple KA members devoted their lives to Christ the day after the accident, according to Chris Kelly.

All the boys’ fathers specifically expressed their families’ gratitude to not only KA, but also the Ole Miss community, the city of Oxford, the city of Madison and the state of Mississippi.

“We can still get together with friends and talk about stories and things about any of the three of them,” Moore said. “They truly have touched so many people’s lives and shown us all to live life to the fullest. I’ve learned so much this past year that I could write a book about it.”

Moore created a public Facebook page for tonight’s event and is expecting close to 100 people to honor the boys tonight.

“I never thought I would have to plan something like this,” Moore said. “I know that about 30 or 40 of our friends from Mississippi State are coming, and I know that many Ole Miss students will be there as well.”