By Staff Reports
The Jennifer Short Memorial Scholarship Bike and Car Ride has been cancelled.
Ray Reynolds, who has helped organize since the 2002 murders, said this would have marked the 18th year of the ride.
It was organized after the bodies of Michael and Mary Short were found inside their home. Each died from a single gunshot wound to the head. The couple’s daughter, 9-year-old Jennifer Short, was missing, and authorities believed that she had been abducted by her parents’ killer or killers. Jennifer’s remains were found about 6-weeks later along a stream bed near Grogan Road in Stoneville, N.C.
The murders remain unsolved.
The incident, Reynolds said, “changed my life at the time because I was their neighbor. And realizing the whole family had been murdered and taken out, this little girl taken out of the area and found later, it made you realize, no matter how small of an area, it can happen anywhere.”
The ride serves as a fundraiser for the scholarship, which is overseen by Bassett Kiwanis Foundation and awarded to area students in honor of Short and her family.
Typically, the ride begins at Victory Baptist Church in Fieldale. Participants depart there en route to the Jennifer Short Memorial Bridge on Grogan Road in Rockingham County, N.C. — near where some of her remains were recovered on Sept. 25, 2002.
Reynolds, a local business owner, said he cancelled this year’s event due to a dispute between himself, the City of Martinsville and a local activist group, Martinsville Protest.
Reynolds, a supporter of Pres. Donald Trump, maintains that political bias towards himself and other business owners is the reason for the cancellation of the ride. He alleged the group planned to target businesses that typically help support the ride each year and the church.
“Another reason was that we have too many people that show up for the ride each year that carry guns and believe in the second amendment,” Reynolds said during an Aug. 3 telephone interview. “I felt it was best not to have it because of that and to protect some of these other businesses and sponsors that donate to the ride each year.”
Benjamin Compson-Lawson, a previous page administrator for the social media group, said that doing this would have gone against the group’s goals and desire to help the community.
“Not a single time,” Compson-Lawson said. “We would have never gotten in the way of a charitable event.” Additionally, he said that he was a childhood friend of Short’s and that he is proud to have known her.
Lydiah Hachbart, one of the original founders of the Martinsville Protest group, also said her group has no objections to the ride.
“I’d like to publicly state that we never have threatened to and will not protest the Jennifer Short Ride if it were to happen in the future,” Hachbart said. “We would love for fundraising to continue for the scholarship should Mr. Reynolds change his mind. If, he; however, was actually cancelling it because of the coronavirus pandemic then we certainly understand that decision for public safety but as for our involvement with the ride, we promise that we will not be an impediment to Mr. Reynold’s right to do so since it is such a great cause for the community.”
Reynolds has said the annual event raises an average of $2,800 to $4,000 per year.