SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Seven years after losing their loved one, the DeLoach family said it doesn’t get any easier.

Last Friday marked the 7th anniversary of a fatal crash, caused by a distracted driver, that left five Georgia Southern University nursing students dead, including DeLoach.

“She was my big sister, so she was protective of me,” Abbie’s sister Anna Delany said. “She was somebody that I looked up to and somebody that I just admired as a person.”

Anna said she and her sister, who were just 22 months apart, had a very close relationship.

“I don’t know why but I feel like seven years was just kind of a big pill to swallow,” Anna said. “It’s like wow, it’s really been seven years. I’m just very very proud to be part of this all and to honor her the best that I can.”

On Friday, more than two dozen students were awarded scholarships from the Abbie DeLoach foundation, which Abbie’s father started in 2016.

The DeLoach family said they had been looking forward to the luncheon, which usually happens every year and holds a special place in their heart. While they say losing Abbie never gets easier, they feel like a piece of her lives on in the students they honor.

“After that one significant day, you’ve got 364 that seems to fall off the map,” said Jimmy DeLoach, Abbie’s father and president of the foundation. “But this way, with some type of recognition, I’ve gained 29 children because the recipients who we’re rewarding here today.”

Since 2016, the Abbie DeLoach Foundation has contributed $1.25 million to students at schools like Savannah State University, Georgia Southern University and the University of Georgia. The family looks for students that embody some of Abbie’s core qualities: a love of nursing, education, athletics and international service.

“I’m just glad I’m able to be here not only to support them but to also receive the support from them,” said Jedaiah Daniels, a scholarship recipient from Savannah State. “We also had a member of our team pass away, Carissa, and so we understand that pain and understand the need for support and community.”

Award in hand, the foundation hopes students walk away with a piece of Abbie inside of them.

“When life throws you a curveball, or when you feel life’s just you’re at the end’s wit, you’ll be able to be centered and get up the next morning and be able to be a dad, a mom and just enjoy life,” Jimmy said.

“There is a future and there are positive things happening in the world that she would want,” Anna said. “She would want it to be a positive manner.”

The foundation has grown from awarding six students in 2016 to 29 on Friday, between the class of 2021 and 2022.