by: Tom Regan Updated:ALPHARETTA, Ga. —
More than 250 friends, students, teachers and parents joined a Roswell family to plant a tree at Haynes Bridge Middle School Saturday in memory of a former student and lacrosse player.
James "Jamie" McHenry, 13, died after he was struck by a car in Florida while on spring break. Today would have been his 14th birthday.
"I want to thank everybody for being here. Your support is overwhelming and we're very grateful, especially to all you kids. Keep him in your hearts. That's what I do. I'm going to try not to be sad today, because 14 years ago today was a great day for me, for us, and now all of you," said the teen's father, Jim McHenry.
Students, many choking back tears, spoke endearingly of their friend and classmate, who excelled as a member of the Centennial Junior lacrosse team. They spoke of the teen's kindness,
generosity and sense of humor. Many spoke of the difficulty they have had in accepting the loss of a great friend.
"It's amazing how many people he touched in his 13 years," one student said.
Jamie McHenry was nicknamed "Rocket-Shot" by his teammates for the power of his lacrosse stick swing. His father said he also helped to train and coach is younger sister, Emily McHenry.
The student's father and mother said he would be proud and appreciative to see so many friends, teachers and parents celebrating his life. Among those attending the ceremony was Haynes Bridge Middle School
Principal Lauren Seidman.
Jamie McHenry's mother expressed her gratitude for the
friendship, and support of the staff and students at the school.
"I would like to thank you guys - all the
kids - for being such an important part of his life. He loved you all so much. He also continues to live on because you are always posting things on his Instagram page. I enjoy reading them on a daily basis," said Christine McHenry.
The tree planting ceremony on the school grounds included a balloon release. The McHenry family also thanked organizers of the event.
The family has established a sports scholarship fund in memory of their son to assist young lacrosse athletes.