The Park City 5 live on |

The Park City 5 live on

Alisha Self, Of the Record staff

Between February and September of 2008, five young people passed away in tragic accidents that shook the Park City community to its core. Now, the parents of Erica Knell, Chris Yeates, Matt Knoop, Connie Blount and Mike Pennels have put their heads and hearts together to commemorate the lives of the "Park City 5".

The Park City 5 Memorial Fund has been established to build a sister school to Park City High School (PCHS) outside of Riobamba, Ecuador. Up to 40 parents, students and community members have the opportunity to travel to Ecuador this summer to work alongside locals building the school. At the end of the trip, a dedication ceremony will be held in memoriam of the five young people.

Ellen Knell believes building a school in honor of the former PCHS students just seems like the right thing to do. "We have a very strong bond around education," she says, explaining that among the 10 parents, several are educators. They feel that their children had access to great schools in Park City and they want to contribute to education for those in need. The parents also want to pay tribute to the international ties shared by the five kids. "They all wanted to see the world and be a part of it," says Knell.

The parents chose Ecuador for the school because it is one of the areas with the greatest need for basic educational facilities and materials. They also saw an opportunity to develop an ongoing relationship between the community in Ecuador and the students at PCHS. "We really see this as a two-way thing," says Knell.

The expedition is being organized through Ascend Alliance, a nonprofit organization based in Salt Lake City that coordinates humanitarian service trips to Latin America and Africa. The focus of Ascend is to work with local communities and governments to create sustainable projects.

Volunteers are needed to help with the construction of the school as well as with training the villagers in various trades, setting up community health programs and facilitating the use of simple technology such as greenhouses, adobe stoves and solar energy systems. "The goal is to teach them how to fish instead of just giving them fish," says Jared Moon, a representative for Ascend who is helping to organize the trip.

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The itinerary for the expedition, which will take place July 16 through 25, includes five days of humanitarian work in the mountainous villages near Riobamba, three travel days and a day in Cuenca, one of Ecuador’s most populous cities, to explore historical and cultural aspects of the country and to participate in the Ascend Ecuador Gala. For those who wish to spend extra time visiting other regions of the country, Ascend can help arrange transportation and accommodations.

The cost for the basic trip is $1,100 (excluding airfare) for those who participate in the fundraising effort, or $1,500 for non-fundraisers. Airfare for the flight from Salt Lake City to Quito and the return trip from Quayaquil to Salt Lake City is expected to cost approximately $1,000. Payment in full will be due by May 16.

The Park City 5 Memorial Fund will provide five $1,000 scholarships for PCHS students who demonstrate a strong commitment to the service project. The scholarship application is available online at and is due April 22.

The parents of the Park City 5 hope to make the Ecuador expedition an ongoing project and to continue to provide scholarship opportunities for students. There are 16 communities in the Riobamba region that are in desperate need of support, Knell explains. "We want to continue to support education on behalf of our kids," she says.

At the end of May, the founders of the Park City 5 Memorial Fund will host the 5K for 5Kids Memorial Walk/Run in Park Meadows (the event is scheduled for May 30 but is subject to change pending approval by the city). All proceeds will go to building costs for the school. Registration is $20 in advance (go to ) and $25 the day of the race.

Proceeds from a June 8 charity golf tournament will also benefit the fund. The event will be held at Jeremy Ranch Golf Course, and tickets are $70 per golfer. To sign up, email Dave Knell at

For more information on the Ecuador expedition, fundraising efforts and a video about the Park City 5, visit . Students interested in participating in fundraising or going on the trip may contact PCHS Spanish teacher George Murphy in room 127 or at Donations to the Park City 5 Memorial Fund may be made online or mailed to The Park City Foundation, P.O.Box 681499, Park City, Utah 84068.