ROANOKE COUNTY (WSLS 10) - The 2017 Roanoke Regional Writers Conference kicked off Friday night at Hollins University on a somber note.
17-year-old Sarabeth Hammond was expected to be the youngest panelist at the conference before she was killed last month in a car accident.
The annual Writer's Conference Scholarship, which is now eight years old, has been renamed the Sarabeth Hammond Memorial Scholarship.
It was given to two Hollins University students and aspiring writers Friday, and was presented by Sarabeth's mother Caroline.
"She's been gone now a month tomorrow, and she would have been right there," said Caroline Hammond, referring to the panel her daughter would have sat on.
That panel spot was marked by a picture and a hat.
Her family held roses to remember their daughter, who conference organizer Dan Smith says was talented beyond her years.
"She's an exceptional talent, a wonderful writer. Her blog on Lyme Disease... is one of the best anywhere, no matter who's writing it and when she was writing it she was between 12 and 16 years old," said Smith.
The winner of that scholarship was Hollins University student Marion Pickering, who says she learned she bears some shocking similarities with the talented teen she never got to meet.
"She was home-schooled, and I was home-schooled. I home-schooled my children for four years, and also she had chronic Lyme Disease, and I have chronic Lyme Disease, and so do my children, so there was this really crazy connection that meant the world to me, and it is an honor. I've never met her and I didn't know her, but I'll never forget her," said Pickering.
Pickering is a student and single-mother, and says the $1,500 scholarship will help her continue her studies.
The runner-up to the award was student Brittney Flowers, who was awarded $500.
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