ST. PETE BEACH
Hours after getting the news that her son Jason had died in a car crash, Donna Ritchie had an idea.
She turned to her husband, Bob.
We have to do something good, she told him. How about a foundation in honor of Jason?
The Ritchie Hockey Foundation, created in July 2009, is embarking on its most ambitious project yet.
It has pledged more than $500,000 to create an endowed scholarship for hockey student-athletes at the Winchendon School, a college prep school in Massachusetts from which Jason Ritchie graduated in 2005.
The school, in turn, has named its recently built ice arena the Jason Ritchie '05 Ice Rink.
"The hockey and the education go hand in hand," said Donna Ritchie, who added that her son learned teamwork, responsibility and other life lessons by playing the sport.
Jason got interested in hockey as a young boy, first learning to skate, then persuading his parents to let him go for the goalie position.
He moved to Florida a few years after graduating from Winchendon, studying at St. Petersburg College and taking a job as a telemarketing sales rep at the St. Petersburg Times. His goal was to move up to the sports department, where he hoped to write about hockey, his passion.
He died May 1, 2009, on his way home from a late-night league hockey game in Ellenton. Authorities said the 22-year-old's car missed a curve and overturned. They think he may have fallen asleep behind the wheel.
His parents said the scholarship is just the beginning of what they hope the foundation will be able to do.
They said their son loved Florida, and they'd love it if the scholarship eventually could help send a student from this state to Winchendon.
"While it's an honor to plant his legacy … it's our chance to give back and help underprivileged youth," said Bob Ritchie, owner of the Tampa-based American Integrity Insurance Group. "It's therapeutic."
Kameel Stanley can be reached at (727) 893-8643 or firstname.lastname@example.org.