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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Foundation honors friend with letters

    In memory of a friend killed in an October 2005 motorcycle accident, members of the Michelle Combs Foundation are asking UA students to pick up a pen.

    The foundation is holding a mailer night tonight, in which attendees will put together handwritten letters asking for donations from members of the Tucson Chamber of Commerce and anyone else the letter writers choose.

    Jeff Gillingham, a business administration senior and advertising account executive for the Arizona Daily Wildcat, said the foundation is also accepting donations, which are now tax-deductible because the group has attained government status as a nonprofit organization.

    At 2 a.m. tomorrow, when the event is expected to end, Gillingham said he hopes to have completed about 2,000 handwritten letters.

    “”Expect a lot of writing,”” Gillingham said.

    Gillingham said he became involved in the earliest stages of the Michelle Combs Foundation because he had known the former UA student through their membership in the business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi. He said the fraternity continues to be a large part of the foundation’s operation.

    Brianna York, a business administration junior and Combs’ former roommate, said the foundation hopes to raise enough money to provide scholarships to students in the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques Center. Combs, who had dyslexia, was a member of the SALT program.

    Gillingham said he hopes by the end of this letter-writing campaign to have enough money to provide three scholarships of $2,200 each to business students with learning disabilities.

    The $2,200 is the same amount as the fee that lower-division undergraduate students must pay to be members of SALT.

    But Jeff Orgera, SALT Center director, said the scholarships will not function like normal scholarships from the university. Instead, students will be given the money in the form of a stipend, which they can use to pay off the fee, books, or anything else they choose, he said.

    Gillingham said the scholarship will be merit-based, not need-based.

    Jocelyn Combs, Michelle’s mother, said she has taken a supportive role within the work of the foundation, and hopes to see the scholarship fund expand beyond the UA. She said she will attend the event tonight.

    “”I’m just so thrilled that Michelle’s legacy will live on so that other people will have the same opportunities she did,”” she said.

    Michelle Combs died when the motorcycle she was riding as a passenger collided with a car. The driver of the motorcycle also received serious injuries.

    York said she remembers her former roommate as a vivacious person who made everyone around her feel happy.

    “”Michelle was just really high energy,”” York said. “”She had a real positive aura.””

    Gillingham said some members of the foundation have spoken about expanding to other kinds of work outside of the scholarship fund, such as providing free motorcycle helmets with a foundation logo on the side.

    The Michelle Combs Foundation Mailer Night is tonight from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m., located at the Best Western Executive Inn, 333 W. Drachman St.

    Gillingham said food, drinks and Red Bull will be provided.

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