HANCOCK COUNTY — It was the support they got that inspired them.
It seemed like every time Jay and Tammy Settergren turned around, someone was offering to help them cope with the loss of their son, Riley, who died in a car crash in July days before he was set to start his senior year at Eastern Hancock High School.
Friends made meals and brought them to the house. Neighbors sent thoughtful notes, offering comfort and prayers in all different forms.
How could they repay their community its kindness? The Settergrens began to wonder. And how could they honor Riley’s memory through that work?
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They found their answer in the formation of the Riley Charles Settergren Foundation, a nonprofit that, through scholarships and financial aid, will help grow local schools and the athletic programs, 4-H groups and other ventures their son loved during his short life.
Riley Settergren was 17 years old when he died in a crash on July 26 when the pickup he was riding in with two friends struck a large crop sprayer on a rural Hancock County road, not far from his family’s farm.
Riley was a member of Eastern Hancock’s football, track and wrestling teams. When he wasn’t on the field or the mat, he was in the front row of the stands, cheering on his friends, his fellow Royals.
The teen also was a dedicated 4-H’er, heading into his 10th year as a member of the local Country Kritters club; he showed sheep and pigs.
It’s these sorts of groups his parents now hope to grow — the ones Riley was most passionate about — with the hope that, along the way, other students find the same passion Riley had, Jay Settergren said.
This year, two $1,200 academic scholarships will be given away to seniors graduating from Eastern Hancock. Another $500 scholarship will be given to a 10-year member of Riley’s 4-H club, to help each achieve their higher-educations goals.
The family also plans to give away money to replace Eastern’s athletic equipment and uniforms, to purchase school supplies and generally help fill the gaps in the small school district’s sometimes limited budget.
In the years to come, the Settergrens plan to stretch their mission outside of Eastern Hancock schools so they can serve other school corporations and students in the area.
And Riley — his memory, his positivity, his infectious attitude — will live on through these donations, as the groups thrive and as more kids better themselves.
“We thought, ‘Let’s do something to help kids do the things Riley loved to do,’” Jay Settergren said. “The community has been phenomenal, and we just wanted to give back.”
Creating the foundation hasn’t been easy, Jay Settergren admitted. The emotions, the pain of losing Riley, is still so fresh in their minds.
But channeling their grief in this positive way has helped make the family more optimistic, he said. Each of the family members has taken on a different role in furthering their new mission.
Jay, the spokesman. Tammy, the event-planner. And Chase, Riley’s younger brother and a 10th-grader at Eastern Hancock, the spotter of causes most in need of extra funding.
And together, they’ve crafted an application process they say is as unique as their Riley.
In addition to writing a short essay about their goals and what they’ll use the scholarship money for, each applicant must submit a three-minute video about themselves, using what they know about Riley — whether they knew him personally or not — as inspiration.
They hope the applicants will channel Riley’s goofball nature, his big personality and the love he had for his close-knit community.
They’ll watch all the videos together and decide, together, who will be awarded the funding — just another way for their family to be closer after their loss, heal and keep Riley at the center of their lives, Jay Settergren said.
Those who knew Riley are excited about the future of the foundation.
Vickie Ramsey, who runs the Country Kritters 4-H Club Riley was a longtime member of, said friends he left behind were eager to help craft the 4-H scholarship that will be given away later this year.
The club, with the Settergren family’s blessing, wrote the guidelines of the scholarship, drawing on the characteristics they cherished most about their friend.
Knowing that a scholarship, supported by a foundation caring his name, will help others brought the students Riley left behind some comfort, Ramsey said.
Like his parents, they’re so pleased to know Riley will live on in this way, she said.
“Riley made a huge impact on other 4-H kids just by his willingness to help,” Ramsey said. “He was a great young man.”
The family of Riley Settergren, a rising Eastern Hancock High School senior who died in a car accident in July, has announced the creation of the Riley Charles Settergren Foundation. This nonprofit will support local schools, athletic programs and youth group through scholarships and financial aid.
To learn more:
- On Facebook: The Riley Charles Settergren Foundation
- By email: email@example.com
Riley Settergren’s high school football jersey — No. 30 — will be formally retired before the Eastern Hancock High School varsity boy’s Friday night basketball game at the high school, 10320 E. County Road 250N, Charlottesville.
A story on the ceremony will appear in an upcoming edition of the Daily Reporter.