Riley family starts scholarship fund for LHHS students in son’s memory
By KEITH SPARKS
On Sept. 16, the Riley family’s lives would change forever. 15-year-old Panther football player Cade Riley was killed in an ATV accident on his way to the banks of the San Gabriel river to fish when tragedy struck.
In the wake of it all, a home run catch by his younger brother in the MLB American League Championship Series made national news, bringing attention to a family that still doesn’t quite understand why. Regardless, they’re using their newfound platform to better the Liberty Hill community in Cade’s memory.
Following Cade’s death, the Riley family set up a scholarship fund in his name through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which has already eclipsed $50,000, and Liberty Hill ISD.
“We set up the scholarship fund in Cade’s name,” Cade’s father, Mike Riley, said. “We’re still trying to sand all the edges and get that figured out, but right now the scholarship is already up over $50,000. I think we’ll be able to give back to the Liberty Hill community for a lot of years. At least, that’s the plan is to have it endowed so we can start giving every single year. That’s our plan.”
Mike Riley had zero experience with scholarships before his involvement with the Cade Riley Scholarship, which made this revelation that much more unique. Riley said he made two phone calls, both of which were successful immediately.
“The crazy thing was that Cade passed away on a Saturday, and on Monday morning I was starting to write the obituary, and something just got laid on my heart where I felt like we should start a scholarship,” Riley said. “The crazy thing was that I had no idea, I had never applied for a scholarship, I had no idea how scholarships worked. I made two phone calls, and by 2:00 that afternoon, I had the FCA and Liberty Hill ISD willing to take the money until we decided what we were going to do with it.”
The support the family has received has been incredible, according to Riley, and the scholarship fund was the first thing that came to mind as he pondered ways to give back to the community that’s given so much to them.
“It’s been so overwhelming that we already have that much support right off the bat,” Riley said. “I hope that it can really grow into something big.”
Riley’s plan, at this point, is to let the scholarship grow until Cade’s graduating class is set to walk the stage. To him, it just feels right to give the first scholarship to one of his son’s peers, although that’s far from set in stone. Right now, they’re simply collecting the money and trying to figure out how to best serve the community.
“I think what we may do is let it grow for the next two years,” Riley said. “I think my plan right now is to give it away to, Cade was a sophomore, so I’m thinking if we let it grow, it can be even more impactful, and I thought it might be appropriate that we give the first scholarship away the year Cade was going to graduate. That’s just sort of me thinking about it right now, but don’t hold me to that. I think we’ve collected just about as much money as we’re going to collect. Now, we have to figure out where to put it.”
Not only does Riley see the scholarship going to someone from Cade’s class, but he also would like the recipient to hold similar values. He isn’t looking for the student with the highest GPA or the most gifted athlete. Instead, he wants the scholarship to go to somebody that shared similar interests with his son and loved Liberty Hill as much as he did.
“I can’t say for sure, but I think I’m going to try to find somebody about like Cade,” Riley said. “I’m not looking for a kid that has a 4.0 GPA, but somebody that was involved in school, loved the school, and gave back to the community. When we set up the parameters for it, that’s what we’re going to look for.”
Riley hopes that the scholarship fund lasts for many years, not only to support Cade’s peers, but to support students that grow up in Liberty Hill for years to come.
“I hope that we can give back to this community for a lot of years, and that’s really our big plan,” Riley said.
In addition to local donations, Riley said groups have approached him about hosting fishing tournaments with proceeds going toward the Cade Riley Scholarship in honor of his passion for fishing.
“Cade’s other big passion in life was fishing, and some people want to do some memorial fishing tournaments for him that benefit his scholarship,” Riley said. “There’s been all kinds of stuff, so I don’t know where it’s all going to go.”
Those who wish to donate can do so through FCA via check to Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Attn: Cade Riley Scholarship, 104 Hi Stirrup, Horseshoe Bay, TX 78657, made out to FCA, or through Liberty Hill ISD to Cade Riley Memorial Fund Attn: Donna Cox, 301 Forrest Street, Liberty Hill, TX, 78642, made out to Liberty Hill ISD.