Fundraiser to kick off new memorial scholarship

CASSOPOLIS — There are many ways to remember a lost loved one, be it through playing their favorite song, hosting an event in their memory or simply taking a quiet moment to recall the times they made an impact on the people around them.

A pair of friends in Cassopolis took these ideas and went a step further by establishing a scholarship in the name of their recently departed friend.

Tracy Baker, of Cassopolis, died on Sept. 6, 2017, due to ovarian cancer. The beloved mother of three Cassopolis graduates was 48 years old when she died.

To remember her, Baker’s friends Shelli Armstrong and Sherri File, along with members of Baker’s family, will be launching the Tracy Baker Memorial Scholarship this year. The scholarship will be awarded to selected graduating Ross Beatty High School athletes.

The scholarship’s first fundraiser will be a chili cook-off taking place at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 12 at Ross Beatty Jr./Senior High School.

“We thought [the scholarship] was a good way to remember her,” Armstrong said. “She was a very dedicated mom. She did everything to help with the sports programs. It was not just her kids. She always wanted to make sure everyone’s kids had what they needed. … Giving back to the kids would have been what she wanted.”

Armstrong described Baker as a caring friend and mother who went the extra mile to ensure her children got the opportunities that she did not growing up.

“She did not have the any opportunities as a kid to do extra things, and this made her want to want to give so that it might help the kids of the community,” Armstrong said of Baker. “She wanted her kids to do be able to do whatever they wanted.”

As Baker’s children were involved in Cassopolis sports, Baker put her desire to provide the children of Cassopolis with fun toward involving herself in many clubs and donated much of her time to volunteering for the sports teams prior to her death, File said.

“I think the scholarship will keep [Baker’s] name alive and help out some kids, too,” File said.

File and Armstrong the hope is to give away at least two $500 scholarships to qualifying students, but they full amount they award will be based on the money raised by fundraisers. Currently, the chili cook-off is the only planned fundraiser, though File and Armstrong also hope to host a golf outing in the spring.

“It really depends on how much money we raise,” Armstrong said. “We want to help as many kids as we can.”

The pair of friends have high hopes for the chili cook-off as the scholarship’s first fundraiser. Those looking to compete with their chili will pay a $20 registration fee. Those attending the cook-off can pay $5 to sample each chili in the competition before voting for their favorite. The winner of the cook-off will be awarded with a plaque and a trophy.

As the fundraiser will take place on Jan. 12, the cook-off will be on Baker’s birthday, which is part of the reasoning File and Armstrong chose that date to host the scholarship’s first fundraiser.

“A lot of [Baker’s] family and friends will be there to help support her cause,” Armstrong said. “This will be their first birthday without her, and we wanted to give them a time and a place to remember and honor her the way she deserves to be.”

Armstrong and File said they hope the community will turn out to the chili cook-off to remember Baker and help ensure that the scholarship created in her honor is successful for years to come.

“[The scholarship] is a good thing for [Baker’s] memory and for the kids,” Armstrong said. “We want to help as many kids as we can. It’s what she would have wanted.”

The deadline to register to compete in the cook-off is Jan. 10. To register, contact Armstrong at (574) 532-5305 or contact File at (269) 580-2331.

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