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Benefit for the Basin scholarships

Sixteen of the 24 Klamath County high school recipients of a scholarship via the Benefit for the Basin group stand together following a ceremony at the Klamath County Visitor Center Wednesday evening where each received a $500 check.

Benefit for the Basin — a nonprofit fundraising arm for area students — paid out $12,000 in scholarships Wednesday to 24 high school students, the largest amount it has given since its inception five years ago.

Every dime the group raises at its annual car show and special raffle of rebuilt muscle cars is returned to students and Basin schools in some form, organizers said.

A special awards ceremony was held at the Klamath County Visitors Center for what has become an annual tradition — distributing scholarship checks to high school students preparing for the next step in life.

Not limited exclusively to collegiate aspirations, students who may next enter the military, or a trade school, or are simply needing funds for whatever their future may hold; are eligible to submit a contest entry.

Interested students need only write a 300-word essay about what community means to them, and what they have done to be a positive change. Essays are read anonymously by a committee and voted upon without knowledge of each student’s identity. There are no GPA or extra-curricular requirements.

This year, the group helped a record number of students, 24 in total, with $500 scholarships, totaling $12,000. No more than two essays were selected from each regional high school, which included Tulelake, Butte Valley, home-schooled students, and all Klamath city and county high schools.

Sixteen of the 24 students were able to attend the ceremony in person, receiving a certificate and check courtesy of Benefit for the Basin board members. Keith Stotts, Benefit for the Basin president, and Joe Reister, vice-president, distributed each check and posed for photos with recipients.

Students honored Wednesday included: Tristin Gray of Great Basin Home School; Meredith Bush and Julia Brancacio of Hosanna Christian High School; Stephanie Rizo-Lopez of Lost River High School; Patricia Graciano-Rodriguez and James Sullivan of Butte Valley High School; Daniel Jones and Jasmine Schock of Chiloquin High School; Sophia Gomez and Ellie Mangan of Henley High School; Elyse Englestadter and Conner Stroh of Klamath Union High School; Julia Flocchini and Madison Baeth of Mazama High School; Laura Garcia-Villasenor of Tulelake High School; and Kristin Stotts of Mazama High School who received a Merit Scholarship for countless volunteer hours towards the cause.

Students who were not present, but still receiving scholarships include: Megan Southard and Haylee Hansen of Bonanza High School; Brianna Caswell of Eagle Ridge High School; Ximena Lemus-Hernandez of Lost River High School; Daria Jones of Triad School; Madison Mefford and Catrina Smith of Gilchrist High School; and Abigail Scanlan of Tulelake High School.

“We are people who donate for a good cause, so when you land somewhere, fill our shoes,” Stotts told students and families present. “One of the highlights for us is to see each one of these kids, shake their hands and give them money, and someday hopefully wherever you land you remember us.”

The scholarship program is one of many ways in which the Benefit for the Basin gives back since its inception seven years ago. A non-profit with 100 percent of proceeds given to youth-oriented charities and organizations, it has grown from humble beginnings to have to date raised nearly half a million dollars.

According to Reister, more than 30 organizations have since partnered in the effort, alongside 20-25 volunteers, who coordinate extensive fundraisers and events to benefit Klamath Basin youth.

To date, more than 20 different youth-oriented programs have benefited from the funds, such as 4-H, FFA, Youth Without Borders, City of Lights, SMART Reading Program, HOSA, and various ROTC and sports programs.

Its biggest annual event is the Benefit for the Basin Charity Dinner and Car Show, held each year in September at the Klamath County Fairgrounds. The two-day event combines a classic car show with a dinner and auction, and a wide variety of fun family activities.

“This is by far the most meaningful thing we do — give back to the youth in their higher education,” added Reister. “We live in an area that is so supportive, and we could not do it without or sponsors and partners, board members and families.”

For more information about Benefit for the Basin visit www.benefitforthebasin.com.