Ryan Mance
Ryan Mance was murdered in 1999, but his family has kept his memory alive through a special scholarship fund. (Courtesy photo)

It’s a busy time for Patricia Daniels.

Last week, she hit the road, headed toward the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology in Florence, South Carolina, to host a tea in her late son’s name.

When Daniels returns, she’ll continue the preparation for the ninth annual Evening of Jazz & Scholarship Dinner Benefit, also in honor of her son, Ryan Mance.

The June 15 event will be held at Camelot by Martin on Central Avenue in Upper Marlboro.

“It’s really busy, I can’t even talk right now,” Daniels said.

But it’s a good busy because it involves the work she’s done to keep Ryan’s memory alive and his legacy going.

The Ryan Odelle Mance Memorial Scholarship Foundation awards money to local African-Americans for college. (Courtesy photo)

Daniels remembers all too well coming home on a cold November night in 1999 to find her son dead just inside the front door of the family’s home in Laurel.

He had been murdered. The house ransacked, but the only thing of value missing was Ryan’s beloved saxophone.

In 2008, Daniels founded the Ryan Odelle Mance Memorial Scholarship Foundation with a mission of awarding scholarships to area African-American students.

She decided that Ryan’s saxophone would be featured as the official insignia of her charitable organization.

It wasn’t until after his death that Daniels learned that her son was offered a music scholarship from Bowie State University.

“Ryan loved people, he loved life, music and he loved blowing his saxophone,” Daniels said. “He had no idea that his brother, Rod, would eventually design the logo and tagline of the saxophone player in a silhouette to help brand an organization that would be created in his memory.”

During the search for Ryan’s killer, Daniels, established a reward fund, offering $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.

An anonymous donor contributed another $5,000, and after spending each anniversary of Ryan’s death placing fliers on police cars in Laurel, Daniels closed the reward fund and began seeking other ways to use the money in her son’s memory.

That’s when she decided on the scholarship fund.

To date, dozens of scholarships have been awarded to qualified students in Ryan’s memory, and Daniels said many more will result from the efforts of the foundation, which raises money by hosting various events around the community.

“My education has meant the world to me, and it has opened a lot of doors,” Rod Mance said in an earlier interview. “I really want to share that.”

Daniels said that while she misses the bright smile and enthusiasm of her son, there’s joy in being able to do something positive in his name.

She said her goals include the foundation becoming the leading nonprofit organization in creating and providing sufficient economic opportunity to empower black youths who demonstrate a reverence for academic achievement and commitment.

Ryan was born on Aug. 22, 1978. Daniels remembered her son as a quiet toddler who looked up to his older brother Rod, rarely crying or demanding attention.

“Even when his asthma bothered him, he would say he felt fine,” she said.

At Laurel High School, where he was a beloved as a student before moving on to study at the University of Maryland, Ryan’s teachers remembered a brilliant and selfless person.

“Having spent a delightful school year with Rod, I was thrilled years later when Ryan came into the same classroom,” said Linda Kinsley, one of Ryan’s teachers. “When Ryan came down the hall, visiting with everyone, smiled his wondrous smile at me, then entered our room, life began.

“What a joy,” she said of Ryan. “He was so open to everyone and empathetic to his classmates, whether their needs were personal or academic. He made the positive difference every day for everyone he encountered. Ryan was a delightful, multitalented, scholarly gentleman.”

The Ryan Odelle Mance Foundation depends on the support of individuals to carry out its mission of assisting and increasing access to higher education for deserving, talented and qualified students, Daniels said.

Contributing is essential to helping achieve the foundation’s goals of minimizing financial difficulty for students and raising funds so that recipients are able to receive annual assistance while pursuing an undergraduate degree.

“You have the power to help change a life,” Daniels said.

To contribute, visit the foundation’s website at www.ryanomancefoundation.org.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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