With a photo of Logan Van Eaton featured in the center, the other two photos show his mom Jessica Van Eaton presenting scholarships to Caden Shanklin of Hot Springs and Lacette Klein of Edgemont.
By Brett Nachtigall
EDGEMONT – It was stated at his funeral on May 10, 2016, that Logan Van Eaton had “a grin as big as his hat.”
Logan – the son of Wyatt and Jessica and younger brother to sister Avery – died just eight days prior to his 12th birthday as the result of an ATV accident that occurred while attending a branding in the Red Canyon Road area of Fall River County.
Its that ‘big grin’ and ‘big hat,’ along with his big heart, that Logan’s family hopes will never be forgotten, which is why they began holding the Logan Van Eaton Memorial Roping and Ranch Rodeo in 2018 over Labor Day Weekend at the Fall River County Fairgrounds in Edgemont.
In addition, the family also recently established a scholarship program in his memory as well.
“One of our goals, for the rest of our lives, will be to keep his memory alive,” said his mom Jessica. “We decided offering a scholarship to graduating seniors would be one way to do it. School wasn’t Logan’s favorite thing, but he was loved in this school.
“We had a lot of support at his memorial event Labor Day weekend last year from people from Hot Springs, Lusk and Harrison that we decided to offer a scholarship to a student from one of those communities, as well. We plan to keep hosting his memorial event every Labor Day weekend to keep the scholarships going, as well as reflect on what a great kid he was and share memories of him,” Jessica added.
This year’s two recipients of the first-ever Logan Van Eaton Memorial Scholarship were Lacette Klein of Edgemont and Caden Shanklin of Hot Springs, who each earned $1,000 to help them pursue their big dreams in college. Klein plans to pursue a degree in Practical Nursing by attending technical school, while Shanklin is enrolled at Chadron State College next year with plans to become a teacher and coach, and eventually an administrator.
The application process entailed each student providing a list of activities in which they were involved, as well as a two-page, typewritten essay that states why family is important to them.
“We chose to have a committee choose the winner,” Jessica Van Eaton said. “A five-person committee read all of the essays and chose the winners. They were to judge them based on content (what family means to them), grammar, spelling as well as their list of activities throughout their high school career.”
The essays were judged blindly, meaning that each submission was assigned a random number so that the selection panel did not know who wrote each essay.
“I did read the essays after the winners were chosen and I think the committee did a great job with their selections,” Van Eaton added.
An excerpt from Klein’s scholarship submission explains how she views the importance of family.
“What I think of when I hear the word ‘family’ is love, forgiveness, respect, trust, and positivity,” Klein wrote. “I was adopted into an amazing family when I was 9 years old, although I didn’t get to experience a family when I was younger … With my biological parents, I never got to experience the trust and love between all of us. I had always asked myself the question, “Why do you need a family if they’re never there for you?”
Further in her essay, Klein explained how she learned the importance of family through the love of her adoptive parents.
“A family should be important to every person in this world. Your family are people that have been with you at the lowest and highest points of your entire life. They were there when your favorite dog died. They were there when you broke your arm. They were there when you had your first boyfriend, your first heartbreak. They were there to lend an ear and let you shed all the tears on their shoulder. So just think, what does family mean to you?”
In his essay, Shanklin wrote,” Family is the first kind of relationship that you acquire when you come into this world. Family is actually a very important and meaningful word. It means to feel secure, to have people that you can count on no matter what, people that you can share your problems with.”
Shanklin wrote about how he was born into a “decently large family” and is the oldest of three brothers who live in a house with his single mother. His family also includes his mother’s six siblings as well as his grandmother.
“One person that impacted my life tremendously was my grandfather who I lived with all of my life until he passed away just three years ago,” he said. “Before my grandfather passed away, I never really thought much about how important certain people are in life and how much they impact your everyday life when you see them ever day. I look back on it now and I see that I took things like my grandpa for granted and I did not completely understand how much he impacted my life.”
“My grandpa was the person I really open up to first. He was the only person that I told everything that ever happened to me to and I was not afraid or scared to do it. I knew that no matter what, he would fully support my decision I made. He was the person that I asked an opinion from on every single little thing that ever happened. He would take me out to breakfast every Sunday and we would stay up and watch the same scheduled shows everyday after school together. He was everything to me in my life until he passed away … People these days do not realize just how much one person can mean to them and how important they are to them until they are gone.”