Scholarship keeps the memory of 3 boys killed on Riverwatch Parkway alive

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Thursday, June 6th, 2019 / News 12 at 11 o'clock

AUGUSTA, GA. (WRDW/WAGT) - Three young boys gone too soon--this time 4 years ago.

In June of 2015 8 year old John Powell, 9 Year old Quamaine Jones, and 9 year old Eric Smalls were killed by a driver who ran a red light on Riverwatch Parkway.

Today, a cross at the intersection of Riverwatch and Stevens Creek Road still stands strong.

One of the boys killed--Eric J. Smalls--has a scholarship in his name.

Tonight, for the 4th year in a row, the scholarship was awarded to help young athletes live out their dreams like Eric might have if he was with us.

For 4 years now, Eric's mother Frankie Simon and United Elite Basketball have given away thousands of dollars in scholarships as a way to give back and heal.

Simon's energy can light up a room. But she's been through the darkest depths to be here today.

"People always say: 'if it didn't happen to you, how could you know what I feel?' But I promise you--they feel what I feel, and I feel them too," Simon told News 12.

Many of those present at the annual banquet in his name knew Eric Smalls personally.

"We just felt like their life meant more than just the nine years that they were with us on this earth. Especially Eric, who loved the game of basketball," she said.

She said this ceremony and the subsequent basketball tournament keep Eric alive.

"To keep the accident in front of the CSRA, and to let them know that something good came out of something so tragic," Simon explained.

It's a celebration of life as much as it is a reflection and a scholarship award; something the athletes don't take lightly.

"I was at practice the day that it happened--the whole tragedy," said scholarship candidate Justin Stevens.

Stevens is a two sport athlete who played basketball with United Elite for years.He's going to Augusta University for baseball in the fall.

"It broke my heart knowing that someone so young had lost their life, and I just want to carry on the scholarship," he told News 12.

Stevens says this scholarship means everything, but Ms. Frankie's strength and love mean even more.

"For her to carry out the tradition of her son and to live out her dreams through us--it means a lot to the community," said Stevens.

Vontrez Roberts--going to Wingate University next year with NBA dreams--agrees.

"It actually means that she loves us," Roberts reflected. "You know, she loves us like we're her own son."

"I feel like she has a lot of love for all the teenagers, all the people that applied for the scholarship and the people she chose," Roberts added.

The 4th annual Eric J. Smalls Basketball Tournament begins tomorrow.

Boys and girls teams will compete all weekend long in Eric's memory--and he will on that court in spirit come tip-off time Friday.