In the early morning of April 28, 2017, a plane crashed just south of the Rick Husband International Airport. Aboard the Rico aviation air ambulance was Melissa Riola’s best friend, her husband, Scott, who was a flight nurse.
Scott and Melissa were high school sweethearts who had been together for 14 years, but Scott was not initially in nursing. It was Melissa who encouraged him to move into that career. It was his second career, but one he thrived in as a flight nurse. Melissa got a job offer to come to Amarillo right after graduating from nurse anesthetist school. Scott received his nursing degree from Amarillo College earlier, so the two had a connection and knew the medical community well. Working for RICO was Scott’s dream job.
Melissa looked for a way to honor Scott’s heroic legacy and approached the Amarillo Area Foundation to set up a scholarship fund for students who were studying to be a flight nurse in the Panhandle of Texas. There are 4 flight crews in the Panhandle, so there is quite a bit of opportunity in the area.
In October of 2017, Melissa received a phone call from the National EMS memorial service that happens every year in Washington DC. They explained that a component of the event was a 500-mile bike ride to honor those who had fallen in the line of duty in the prior year. The gentleman on the phone was calling to make her aware that he would be riding to honor Scott and would be wearing Scott’s dog tags. Melissa, an athlete, said, “Thank you for the honor, but I am going to ride for my husband, that’s how I will honor him.” The challenge was Melissa had never been a road biker. She again drew on the medical community seeking out those who could help her prepare for this enormous undertaking.
“I am a spiritual person, and I know I am supposed to do this because I feel close to Scott,” Melissa said. “The ride is going through my hometown of Yonkers, New York and it’s a healing journey for me.”
Melissa got a bike and began her training and on May 11th, she flew to the beginning of the pilgrimage.
If you would like to donate to the Scott Riola Memorial Scholarship Fund, please CLICK HERE (select the Scott Riola fund in the drop-down menu)