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

This time of year, nothing ever happens easily for Patricia Daniels.

As the calendar turns from June to July, Daniels has to work harder as she reviews sponsors, seating arrangements, menus and other details for her annual Evening of Jazz and Scholarship Dinner Fundraising Benefit.

It’s hard work to be sure, but it’s work that she doesn’t mind a bit because it’s all for the fundraising event — one she started nine years ago in honor of her late son, Ryan Odell Mance.

Daniels discovered her son murdered on the living room floor of their home in Laurel in 1999 at the age of 21, his wallet, car and beloved saxophone stolen.

The case had gone cold for six years until DNA evidence finally linked an inmate in Georgia to the murder.

Afterward, Daniels said it was important to not only keep Ryan’s memory alive, but to do so by helping other young people.

This year, during the benefit on Saturday, July 15 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Camelot by Martin’s in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, nine African-American male students will be presented with scholarships of $2,000 each.

“As we continue to speak Ryan’s name, this event like all the others hopefully will help those we serve to defy the odds that so many have labeled them with,” Daniels said. “Each time a young African-American male student thanks our donors, I am encouraged to work harder and to do more so that other young African-American male students will be able to do the same.

“Their thanks means that they are better able to afford the high cost of a college education so that they may begin and, or fulfill their college dreams, regardless of family income,” she said. “You see, when these young students simply say ‘thank you,’ joy fills my heart for someone who is benefiting as a result of Ryan’s death.”

The event, for which ticket prices are a modest $85 to $100, will be hosted by Cayman Kelly of Sirius XM’s Heart & Soul Channel. Live jazz by Abstract Truth, a treasure chest raffle, dinner and dancing are also on the menu.

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

She said he loved life, music and blowing his saxophone.

“Ryan 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,” Daniels said.

While Daniels and police searched for Ryan’s killer, she established a reward fund, offering $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murderer.

An anonymous donor contributed another $5,000 and, after spending each anniversary date of Ryan’s death placing fliers on police cars in Laurel, Daniels 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.

“Our goal is to continue to provide educational scholarship support to current recipients for their four years of undergraduate studies and to broaden our outreach efforts to future deserving, talented and qualified high school African-American male students nationwide,” Daniels said.

For more information about the event, the foundation or to apply for a scholarship, visit 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...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *