Red Cross
Kelly Yeates, Kaye Knoop and Ellen Knell.

This group of mothers, united by tragedy and strengthened by one another never forgets, even for a minute, how they met.

Whether they're building schools and teaching classes in foreign lands or being honored by the Red Cross for the work they've done, this is about one thing and one thing only.

Their children. Five of them. Graduates of Park City High, killed in unexpected, devastating ways in seven short months. But it's less about how they died and more about how they lived and how to keep their legacy alive through service.

Erica Knell died after her car rolled on I-80; Matt Knoop, an LDS Church missionary, was hit by a car while walking home from church in Brazil; Mike Pennels died suddenly in his sleep; Connie Blount, a University of Kentucky freshman, was hit by a car while crossing the street in Lexington, Ky.; and Chris Yeates lost his footing on a hiking trail in Austria and fell to his death, all in the months between February and September 2008. They have come to be known as the "Park City 5," and today their mothers will receive the International Good Samaritan award, lauded as Red Cross heroes for the work they've done in their children's names.

These women are just a few of those who will be honored today at the American Red Cross Heroes Event. A number of local "heroes" have been selected as part of the 2010 group, to receive awards ranging from Family Hero to Community Safety Hero, for their acts of extraordinary bravery and service.

For these mothers, even the award is about their children.

"This means our kids are being remembered and honored," Ellen Knell said.

"You want everyone to know who they are," Kaye Knoop said.

"And they were all kids who enjoyed life," Kelly Yeates said.

United by an article about the deaths in the Park Record, the women met in February 2009 and, within five months, were building a school and playground in Ecuador, teaching classes on hygiene, cooking and computers and offering scholarships to allow Park City High students an opportunity to help.

"We were their hands and they were our hearts," Yeates said.

"It's good to keep our minds on other things," Knoop said.

"And all the five kids are in cahoots," Knell said. "They've been very busy with the rainbows. Everywhere we went, we saw rainbows."

They said they are motivated every time they see a photo of their children and don't doubt for a moment that they were meant to find one another, to grieve together, support one another and honor their children. And they're just getting started. The plan is to build five schools in five countries, one for each of those children whose lives were cut short, and have a total of 25 scholarships available for Park City High students interested in the work. This summer, the women will travel to Bolivia. From there, it will depend on where they are needed most.

"Our children had great opportunities," Knell said. "We want to give those opportunities to someone else."

e-mail: emorgan@desnews.com