Ian Lay of Cape Coral became the second recipient of the Bradley David Stokes Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund Tuesday night at the Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Department.
About 15 people gathered to congratulate Lay on his scholarship.
The fund was set up by Rebecca Stokes, Bradley Stokes mother, after her son died in a motorcycle accident May 18, 2012. Stokes established the fund because she "wanted her son's passion of becoming a firefighter to live on through others who share the same desire."
"Bradley really loved firefighting and he wanted to be a firefighter since he was about 3 years old. When he was 14 he began going to the fire department and participated in the Fire Explorer program where he would do training and field trips," she said. "After graduating from Edison State College, it was around the time when firefighters were being laid off, he joined the Air Force where they had a program to become a firefighter. It took him about a year to get into the Air Force and he was home on leave in May 2012 when the accident occurred."
After the accident, Stokes spoke with a friend, Stonegate Bank Vice President Elsie Stearns, about setting up a scholarship account. Stearns worked with Stokes at Winn-Dixie years before where they became close friends.
Once the account was set up, she visited Fire Chief Bradley and Deputy Chief Joe Marzella.
"Joe had been a mentor to my son," Stokes said.
Chief Bradley and Deputy Chief Marzella would choose the individual each year that would receive the scholarship. The first recipient was named just two months after the accident.
Lay was chosen to be the second recipient of the scholarship partly because of a letter he wrote to Stokes expressing his desire to become a firefighter.
"Becoming a firefighter is something I've always wanted to do. I went to college right after high school I'm really glad I did that," Lay said. "Then I went to the University of Central Florida and received a bachelors degree. Since then I've had several jobs; I worked on the BP oil spill in the gulf and that was a great experience working in a team environment. But this was something in the back of my mind for a long time something I've always wanted to do. When I came home after the BP oil spill, I had some money saved up and decided to go for it."
Lay graduated from the Fire Academy in May and attended his third EMT class earlier in the day.
"The EMT classes are 16 weeks of intense training,"he said. "It's 5 days a week from 7 a.m. until 5 or 6 at night. Weekends are spent studying. Everything is on track and I'm right on schedule."
Stokes presented Lay with a book she recently found in her son's room. The book, entitled "The Aspiring Fire Fighter's 2 Year Plan," was a gift she had given her son "a long time ago before he had ever gone to firefighters school." The book explains the path an aspiring firefighter follows to pass the firefighter test and become a certified firefighter.
Stokes also presented Lay with a new stethoscope and a funeral card from her son's funeral. On the card she had printed one of the last things Bradley posted on his Facebook page: "Every man receives the same amount of time; what he chooses to do with it is entirely up to him."
Bradley Stokes would have been 24 years old. The rest of the evening was filled with funny and heart warming stories of Bradley.
Contributions to the Bradley Stokes Memorial Fund may be made at StoneGate Bank, Pine Island Office; see Elsie Stearns