Day Sheonna Groce (left), 2015 Scott Neal Simpson Scholarship recipient, with Dora Simpson and Willie Simpson. CONTRIBUTED

Couple’s son died when he was a student at OSU. Here’s how they keep his memory alive

Scott Neal Simpson was a gifted athlete and scholar at the Ohio State University. In 1999, during his sophomore year, he passed away after lapsing into a diabetic coma.

To carry on Scott’s passion for helping others, his parents, Dora and Willie Simpson, established the Scott Neal Simpson Scholarship Fund through the African-American Community Fund of The Dayton Foundation. To date, the fund has awarded 18 scholarships to Montgomery County high school graduates who participate in organized sports and exemplify a commitment to academic excellence.

Q: Tell us about your son and his scholarship fund. Why did you decide to honor his memory in this way?

Dora: Scott was a very dedicated young man who really loved to help others. During his sophomore year at Ohio State, he came home for spring break, and one of our neighbors needed her snow shoveled. Scott shoveled her sidewalk without her knowing he was doing it. He was just a helper. That’s who he was.

Willie: Scott’s love for helping others made me very proud of him. I wasn’t that way growing up. He taught me to help others.

Dora: Scott had his own business doing yardwork. When he passed, he had money left over. I wanted to make sure I put it to good use and I did something that would please him. So we set up a scholarship fund through the African-American Community Fund at The Dayton Foundation, starting off with just his money. I believe it would make him happy to know we are trying to help students who are using their time wisely and participating in some kind of sport.

Willie: I was an athlete myself, and I taught and coached on the elementary, high school and college levels. I know the importance of instilling in the minds of young people what being a student athlete is all about. I believe this scholarship plants seeds, not only with the recipient of the scholarship but also in the minds of the individuals behind the students.

Q: How does this fund help Montgomery County students? What does the generosity you are able to share mean to you?

Dora: We’ve seen and heard first-hand how this scholarship helps students. I receive thank you notes, and some of the students keep in touch and let me know how they’re doing. Even some of the parents have indicated just how much they appreciate the help. So, the scholarship has not only allowed us to help students, but it also has allowed us to help families. As parents, sometimes we need a little help to get our kids into college, and a scholarship, no matter the size, can make a difference.

Willie: When a counselor tells a student about scholarships, that’s inspiration! It gives them something to shoot for. We need our students to know there are multiple opportunities that can help them pay for college, whether it is the Scott Neal Simpson Scholarship Fund or another scholarship through The Dayton Foundation. A scholarship is hope.

To me, this fund helps us feel like we’re part of the community. Knowing there is someone out there who is going to receive the Scott Neal Simpson Scholarship and keep our son’s memory alive makes me feel good.

Q: How have you raised funds for Scott’s Fund?

Willie: Our family, friends and former co-workers have all been loyal supporters of the Scott Neal Simpson Scholarship Fund. We remember Scott on special occasions by donating to his fund.

Some of my former students during my time working at Northern Kentucky University are getting together to raise money for the fund. All of these acts of kindness are helping us help students.

Dora: We don’t host fundraisers, but we have found that many people are really generous and are willing to pay it forward to help us grow the fund.

Q: How does the African-American Community Fund of The Dayton Foundation help you help others?

Dora: The Foundation always communicates with us and lets us know what’s going on. I’m not the most computer savvy, but they work with me and help us distribute the scholarship application each year.

I’m able to read over the applications, and I get a good feeling reading about students who have done well in high school. The only sad part is we can only pick one, but I enjoy the process.

Willie: Every chance I get, I tell people about The Dayton Foundation. Or anytime I talk about Scott, the conversation carries over into what we are doing through the scholarship fund. You hate to lose a child, but there’s comfort in knowing the Foundation is strong in that survival area, and the memories of your loved ones and what they stood for aren’t going to just fade away. I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where I don’t want to hear about what happened to Scott, but this organization gives us a chance to talk about what happened from a positive stand point, and it makes me feel better about it.

Q: How would you complete this sentence, “My giving makes me feel____”?

Dora: Happy, because I know I’m helping someone else who might need a little extra money to get into college, and that my giving could be just what they were lacking.

Willie: It makes me feel good.

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The Dayton Foundation has been helping people help others since 1921 by managing charitable funds, awarding grants to nonprofits and launching community initiatives. Contact the Foundation at (937) 222-0410 or visit