By Kara McMurray Gazette Reporter After Sam Thompson, 20, was killed in a car accident on Highway 195 between Colfax and Pullman last September, his parents Jim and Lisa Thompson of Colfax knew they needed to do something. Through their grief, they began to educate themselves about the dangers of texting and driving and have been working in the community and surrounding communities to bring awareness to this dangerous habit, which was believed to be the cause of the accident. “Until it happened to Sam, that’s when I realized ‘How did I not know this?’” Lisa said. “And now I want everyone to know.” The Thompsons have been part of several efforts to educate teenagers in particular about this danger. And now they have established the Sam Thompson Memorial Scholarship Fund. Sam was a student at Lewis Clark State College before his death, and his parents, along with his grandmother Lavera Wade, were paying for his school. The Thompsons have established the memorial fund and awarded three Colfax High School seniors scholarships with the money they would have used for Sam’s school. Wade matched their funds. “I know that Sam would want me to give back,” Lisa said. “He was such a generous person and always liked to help people.” Lisa said they had already established the Sam Thompson Memorial Fund to help pay for two signs that were erected at the accident site on Highway 195 as a reminder to drivers of the dangers of texting and driving. She said she was able to use the same tax identification number and set up the fund with Washington Trust Bank, which anyone can donate to. From there, she coordinated with Colfax High School and made the seniors aware of the scholarship. Ten students applied for the scholarships, and three were awarded. Lisa also established a committee to help choose the scholarship recipients. The committee included PJ Sanchez, who is the manager at Washington Trust Bank, Jenny Jordan at the Colfax Fire Department, and Ester Tate, who works for WSU’s finance department. The committee reviewed the applications, which consisted of essays the students wrote and letters of recommendation from teachers. Lisa said a 3.0 grade average was required, but involvement in the community was a major factor. “The people we chose will make a difference in the world,” Lisa said. “If they are that involved in high school, they are going to continue to be involved. That’s what we need.” Dylan Hall was awarded $1,000, and Amara Huber and Jolee Aeschliman were each awarded $500. Lisa said the committee was not aware of the identities of the applicants. “The committee had no idea who they were,” she said. “They were scoring them on their merit.” Lisa said they hope to continue the scholarship for at least five years. In addition to the scholarship, the Thompsons are still educating the community and trying to bring awareness. They recently returned from the Tri-Cities, where they helped with Every 15 Minutes, a program targeted at high school juniors and seniors to bring awareness to the issue of drinking and driving. In recent years, the program has also included an emphasis on texting while driving. “It was an amazing program,” Lisa said. “I was very emotional.” The Thompsons have also gotten involved in driver’s education courses. They said they have been invited by their son’s former Drivers Ed instructor, who works at Assurance Driving School in Pullman, to participate in classes. “Every time he has a new class, we go,” Lisa said. The Thompsons speak to the students about the dangers and risks of texting behind the wheel. “They think they’re invincible,” Lisa said. Lisa also said that when Sam first started driving, he was nervous and timid, but as he became more comfortable behind the wheel, that’s when he would text, too. “It’s when you get comfortable that you need to be careful,” she said of what she and Jim try to leave with the students. “If we can impress that now, maybe they will carry that with them.” The Thompsons are also partnering with the Washington State Department of Transportation to make a video that will go out to every driving school in Washington. “I don’t want someone to forget,” Lisa said. “We want to make an impact now so that they never even think of picking up a phone in the car.”
Summer sun has brought about construction season again, as evident by signs in Colfax for the Highway 195 work on Main Street. The work, which includes repaving, replacing sidewalks and a rebuild of the railroad crossing which is located between the Harrison and Tyler intersection, is part of the Highway 195 resurfacing contract which extends from Cooper Street in Colfax and continues north to the Dry Creek Road intersection.
By Kara McMurray Gazette Reporter LaCrosse is gearing up for the Farmer’s Festival this weekend. The annual event, themed this year as “Celebrate the Good Times,” is expected to draw large crowds and provide plenty of fun for all. The festivities will kick off Friday with the Richard Roberts Scholarship Barbecue at Main Street Mini Park at 5 p.m., with a 21 and older event at Pastime Tavern to follow at 9 p.m. Saturday will be a packed day. LaCrosse Community Outreach will serve a biscuits and gravy breakfast at the Café beginning at 7:30 a.m. and going until 10 a.m. Prices will be $8 for adults, $4 for children aged 6-12 and free for children 5 and under. “The breakfast will be a good way to start the morning,” said Sharon Schlomer, coordinator for the festival. The Kiddies Parade will then begin at 10 a.m., with the Grand Parade to follow at 10:30. Several Grand Marshals have been selected and will be honored at the parade. Gayle and Nancy Startin; Eric, Lois and Buggy Startin; Chelsea and Hudson Startin, all of Startin’s Repair, will be honored for 50 years of service to the community. Butch and Lance Thomas will be honored for 40 years of operation of the Pastime Tavern. LaCrosse Market building, which has been in operation for 100 years, has been listed as a stationary Grand Marshal. “I just thought we’ll just put them all together and we can honor them all at once,” said Schlomer. Several longer events will also be taking place throughout the day, including the Lois Olmstead for her new book, Sugar Ways, from 9-1; a quilt show from 9-2; silent auction from 9-4; invitational art exhibit from 9-4, and a rummage sale at the United Methodist Church from 10-3. Former WSU football player Jason Gesser will also be available for autographs at noon at the city park gazebo. Following the parade, people of all ages can participate in chalk art at the football field sidewalk. Ice cream bars, pit barbecue sandwiches and homemade pie and coffee will be available at the city park at noon. The golf shot, a new event, will occur from 12-2 at the football field and a horseshoe tournament, also a new event, will take place at the city park at 1 p.m. Also at 1 p.m. at the city park will be the money and prize scramble. More fun will follow with the egg toss at 1:30 at the football field, open to adults and kids. A 3-on-3 basketball tournament at 2 p.m. at the elementary tennis courts will continue the fun. “It’s just a time of family and friends gathering together before our harvest,” said Schlomer. “It’s a time that you can meet up with old friends.” Free swimming will be available at the city pool from 1-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. In between the free sessions will be Porky’s Pit barbecue dinner from 5-7. Patrons will have the option to eat their dinner at the café, which will be open for seating. The café closed in March and has not reopened since. Over 21 evening events will include a wine and stein at the LaCrosse Community Club Building from 6-9 and an outdoor beer garden at Pastime Tavern from 9 p.m.-1 a.m. The cost of admission at the beer garden will be $3 for singles and $5 for couples. A live DJ, Rocky Reynolds, will also be on hand for a performance on Main Street from 9 p.m.-12 a.m. That event is free. An added touch to the festivities this year is a life-size horse mural painted by LaCrosse resident Sara Yates. Yates painted the mural, depicting a teamster driving a team of 12 horses. Those who attend the festival will be able to see the finished piece. Sunday’s events will be church services. The Selbu Lutheran Church will meet at 10 a.m., and the LaCrosse Methodist Church, LaCrosse Catholic Church and Country Bible Church will all meet at 11 a.m.