The pain of a parent losing a child is indescribable. A mother’s agony is the most unbearable of all and closing the lid on the coffin, knowing it will be the final time she would see the one to whom she gave birth, amounts to unimaginable grief.
Patricia Daniels, a Prince George’s County resident, experienced those feelings and more when she came home one frigid November night in 1999 to find her 21-year-old son, Ryan Mance, dead inside the family’s home in Laurel.
“Every time I walked through that door, I re-lived finding my son. I went through my grief and I went through my pain,” she said.
After police arrived at the house, they took DNA samples and later discovered an ATM photo of a man trying to use her son’s bankcard.
“No one was ever convicted for Ryan’s death. Police have told me what they think happened, that he bought someone home with him from a nightclub because he was such a social butterfly,” Daniels said. “No one knows why the person killed him. The house was ransacked and the only thing of value the person took was Ryan’s beloved saxophone.”
That saxophone is featured as the official insignia of Daniels’ charitable organization, the Ryan Odelle Mance Memorial Scholarship Foundation, which began in 2008 with a mission of awarding scholarships to area African American male students.
“I guess I was like most parents in that I wanted my sons to have an appreciation for the arts, especially music,” Daniels said. “I think he wanted to please me. He chose the saxophone as his musical instrument and he came to love it.”
Mance played in the Eisenhower Middle School and Laurel High School bands. He earned first chair saxophone in Laurel’s band. The recipient of numerous medals from playing in the Maryland Band Director’s Association Ensemble, Mance also was a big fan of the 1990 Spike Lee film, “Mo Better Blues,” which featured the music of jazz star Branford Marsalis. “Ryan really loved the music in that movie,” Daniels said.
Sadly, it wasn’t until after the aspiring saxophonist’s death that Daniels learned her son received a full four-year music scholarship offer to Bowie State University in Bowie, Md.
“Ryan loved people, he loved life, music and he loved blowing his saxophone,” Daniels said. “He had no idea that his brother, Roderick, would eventually design the logo and tag line of the saxophone player in a silhouette to help brand an organization that would be created in his memory.”
During the search for Mance’s killer, Daniels, established a reward fund, offering $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.
An anonymous donor contributed another $5,000 and, after spending each anniversary date of Mance’s death placing flyers on police cars in Laurel, Daniels closed the reward fund and began looking for other ways to use the money in her son’s memory. That’s when she decided on the scholarship fund.
Today, more than a dozen scholarships have been awarded to qualified students in Mance’s memory and Daniels said many more will result from the efforts of the foundation, which raises money by hosting various events around the community.
“I give Pat Daniels a lot of credit because she has a vision for young males, and she’s doing something about it,” said Barbara Jolly, a close friend of Daniels. “She’s not one for lip service.”
On July 20, 2013, Daniels hosted the 5th annual evening of jazz and awards dinner benefit for the foundation in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
Stephen Trimnell, a St. Mary’s College of Maryland student and foundation award recipient, said the scholarship proved a wonderful gift.
“The Mance Scholarship has been nothing less than a blessing. The open support I have received from the foundation board, distinguishes this scholarship from any other,” said Trimnell, 19.
The Ryan Odelle Mance Foundation depends on the support of individuals to carry out its mission of assisting and increasing access to higher education for deserving, talented and qualified black male students.
“You have the power to help change a life,” she said. “Ryan’s murder is teaching me as much about life as it did about indescribable pain. So, more than anything, I want Ryan’s spirit to make a difference in someone else’s life.”
For more information about the Ryan Odelle Mance Memorial Scholarship Foundation, visit: www.ryanomancefoundation.org.