Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- There were close to 200 people who gathered outside the Park Forest Aqua Center Friday night to remember Jaleel Drayton. They gathered #4Jaleel, to remember Jaleel R. Drayton, age 10, who drowned in a pool at the Aqua Center after hours on the night of July 2-3, 2018.
Close to 200 gathered in the Library parking lot, near the fence that lines the very pool where young Jaleel lost his life.
There were parents, pastors, coaches, friends, police, other residents, and children. So many children. Some older teens who stood further to the back, behind many, and the young ones, the little ones, the ones who knew and played with Jaleel.
There was the laughter, the warm embraces, the tears from family and friends. And from strangers, people who did not know Jaleel.
The organizers of the vigil, Kenyatta Mickey and Jenni Marie Weaver, knew neither Jaleel nor his family. The pastor who preached and prayed, Lonnie D. Harrison, did not know Jaleel nor his family. But, as so many have been since first hearing the news, none of that mattered.
Kenyatta Mickey began the vigil, saying that she and Jenni Weaver organized the vigil together, “I personally didn’t know Jaleel, but, just the simple fact that a child in our town, in our community, was lost, it’s something that affects all of us.”
“It’s good for all of us to be together to embrace the family,” Ms. Mickey said. The family was present but did not wish to answer questions or speak to the media. Mom stood up front, inconspicuously watching, taking it all in. She exchanged hugs with friends and supporters after the vigil.
“Something life-transforming has happened in our community,” Ms. Mickey continued. “Ordinary words fail us, yet it’s impossible to remain silent.”
“This candlelight vigil is, by its own definition and by our intention, is a remembrance of Jaleel. Our candles which are soon to be lit, bright with flames, yet small and all too extinguishable, will burn this wonderful evening with many emotions. There is sadness and grief for the loss we all feel, so shocking, but so real, the numbness we first felt when we learned that a life so young had been lost so close to home.”
“There is admiration for the courage of this family,” Ms. Mickey said.
And there was admiration. And tears. And grief. Palpable, on display.
This was a community moved to gather, to support, to reach out, in an unbearable circumstance.
“The courage of our Firefighters and Park Forest Police Officers who did their duty to the best of their ability that day, and the courage of Jaleel’s family, friends, and loved ones as they struggle through this long, aching, and awful moments that have become the new reality of their lives,” Ms. Mickey continued. “For many of us, perhaps most of us, there’s an awakening sense of personal vulnerability that the distant tragedies that we so often read about in the daily paper have now become a reality in our own community.”
“Jaleel was such a little guy,” Pastor Lonnie D. Harrison said, “and I’m looking at this family that he’s created, in this situation, and I want to encourage the citizens and the family and the friends to know that, even though this is a very tough time, I know that this is our time of healing, that healing is a process.”
Alvin Lacy, who coached Jaleel in the Park Forest Hurricanes, spoke of the obligations adults have toward children. “In sports we always talk about the ‘It factor.’ ‘It’ is something that you can’t coach. It’s that somebody who has ‘It.’ And it separates you from certain people.
“He had that ‘It Factor.’ You see it right here. You see it with all of you all right out here.
“As adults, we have a responsibility,” Coach Lacy continued, “we have a duty, to reach out to kids. Sports, organizations, YSOs, after-school programs, are not just for them to have bodies [that show up.] It’s for you to be able to make an impact in their lives, and for them to make an impact in your life. So, when you see our kids walking through this park — and I live out here, and I walk through Central Park — talk to them. Ask them what’s going on. Don’t be afraid to go sit up under the canopy because there’s a group of them. That doesn’t mean that they’re doing something wrong. Reach out to them.
“I guarantee you, when you get to know them, they’ll change your perception, your thoughts. We can’t compel them to come if we don’t come to them,” he continued.
Then, Coach Lacy spoke of the boy who was there in spirit that night. “Jaleel was a kid I would always see at the dollar store. And he’ll be seeing me, and he’ll sneak down the candy aisle. And I’m like, ‘Jaleel, I don’t want to see you with no Flaming Hots. And when he left, he got four for a dollar.”
This drew some warm laughter.
“But he was at practice. Every coach that he saw on the Hurricane staff, no matter where he was at, if he was riding that bike, he gets off that bike and gives that coach a hug. He would embrace you.
“So make sure that you embrace one another,” Coach Lacy said.
I’m so overwhelmed with the turnout tonight. When I heard of this baby’s passing…God put it on my heart to DO SOMETHING. To see my community come together in support of this child was a blessing to me. Thanks to everyone that was in attendance.
Extra Special Thanks to:
Jenni Marie Weaver
Park Forest Police Department
Coach Alvin Lacy
Pastor Lonnie D Harrison
Posted by Kenyatta Mickey on Friday, July 13, 2018
RIP JALEEL DRAYTON
Posted by Kenyatta Mickey on Friday, July 13, 2018
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