New Lenox Remembers its 'Fallen Angels' With Balloon Release
Hundreds released balloons into the sky on Sunday, June 24 at the Village Commons as a way of remembering those who died young from New Lenox schools and districts.
On a weekend when another young life was lost in this community, friends and family came together to remember their loved ones who died young.
"It's nice to know that as time goes by, people don't forget," said Frankfort resident Lily Joy whose nephew, Jim Komperda, died at 20 after graduating from Lincoln-Way Central in 1999.
Friends and family did more than just remember their loved ones who died during or shortly after high school at the New Lenox Village Commons on Sunday, June 24.
"I know many looking at this occasion thought it would be a solemn event," Mayor Tim Baldermann said. "And when you're remembering those who died too early: It can be. But we need to rejoice as well."
Next, Lincoln-Way Central teacher Chris Hack read-off the list of names of students and faculty members who had died while at local schools or shortly after. It took nearly 10 minutes for Hack to read-off the entire list of students that dated back to the class of 1970.
"We keep all that have died in our thoughts and in our prayers," said John Meraklis, the Providence Catholic High School pastoral director. Included in the list of Providence students that passed away was 2012 graduate, Kaitlyn Moak, who died suddenly on Friday, June 22.
Nick DiSandro, school board president for District 122, read the names of those who died young within his district. He had an even stronger connection to that list because his daughter, Alicia, was on it. She died at age 14 after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Musical performances were given by two people who were connected to someone who died during or shortly after high school, as well.
"You left footsteps on so many lives, it was too soon you left this world behind," Makena Koszela sang in her performance of her song 'We Won't Blink' that she wrote in honor of Tommy Schuman, the Lincoln-Way Central baseball and golf captain who died in March 2012.
Former Lincoln-Way Central class officer Kim Phillips said how she felt that even though the community has been through a lot in the past few months, it has brought them closer together.
"I learned a lot from difficulties my town has faced," said Phillips who organzied the event. "Also, the difficulties my family and I have faced over the past two years. I learned that we should charish every moment in life, and never take for granted."
After Phillips concluded her speech, balloons were released into the sky. Some of them carried notes written on them from their loved ones that read messages that they were never able to say.
The color of the balloons denoted which school someone attended when passing: red for Lincoln-Way Central, orange for Lincoln-Way West, blue for District 122, green for Providence Catholic and yellow for St. Jude.
T-shirts were on sale from EmbroidMe for $11 that read "Remember our Angels." A balloon release memorial will be held every year on the last Sunday in June, according to Phillips.
"This is what makes me really proud to be major of this town," Baldermann said. "This is really, truely a special community."