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Teams in tribute to missed friend.

Death ends a life, not a relationship.

When the late Professor Morrie Schwartz spoke those words in 1994, he was referring to the idea that we are remembered after our death by those who love us, and that our impact on the world is felt long after we are gone from this Earth.

Schwartz's words rang true last Saturday night when the lasting impact of a friendship ended too soon and was felt on the football field at St. Peter-Marian. Prior to the SPM-Doherty game, three Guardians seniors and one Doherty senior honored a friend who had left them too soon.

Kyle Gavin passed away in 2008 from acute hemorrhagic leukoencephalitis (or Weston Hurst disease), a rare condition that affects the central nervous system. Kyle was remembered by his friends before the game, which was dedicated in his honor. His mother and father, Cheryl and Dan Gavin, and younger brother, Bryce, were presented with a St. Peter-Marian football jersey with the No. 5, Kyle's youth football number, and the name GAVIN across the back of the jersey.

"It was such an emotional ceremony and so incredibly unexpected,'' Cheryl Gavin said. "For these boys to remember Kyle and honor him in such a way means so much to our family. It says a lot about the character and integrity of these boys, and the effect the life of a 12-year-old boy can have on others.''

The idea to honor Kyle's memory didn't come from the administration or coaches at St. Peter-Marian, although they loved the idea when it was brought to their attention. Instead, it came from three of Kyle's childhood friends -- SPM seniors Dan Henrickson, Jamal Smith and Mike Genese.

The trio had approached Dan's dad, coach Tom Henrickson, several weeks ago about having a ceremony for Kyle on Senior Night, but they decided that giving Kyle his own night was an even better idea. Having the ceremony the night the Guardians played Doherty -- where another childhood friend, Jack Halloran, plays -- seemed like the best option.

After checking in with SPM administration, who called the idea "the most wonderful thing you could do,'' Tom Henrickson made the emotional call to the Gavin family and extended the offer. After checking with Bryce, a sophomore on the SPM team, Cheryl Gavin agreed to the idea and the wheels were set in motion.

"I think it was a remarkable night, and the fact that the three seniors on our team came up with the idea made it even more special,'' Coach Henrickson said. "These three boys always amaze me with their heart, their caring and their compassion. We are honored to have kids like that here at St. Peter-Marian.''

Added Cheryl Gavin: "I cannot say enough about those boys. For them to still value the friendship with Kyle and want to remember it at such a busy time of their lives is unbelievable.''

Fans attending the game were given a brochure noting the game was dedicated in memory of Kyle Gavin, who died at the age of 12 just before he was scheduled to enter St. Peter-Marian as a seventh-grader. It added that Kyle would have been a member of the SPM football, basketball and baseball teams, and that the three seniors were inspired by Kyle's memory and that he will always be part of their lives.

On the field before the game, the family was met by the SPM coaching staff, including Henrickson and assistant coach Joe Genese, who was a pallbearer at Kyle's funeral, plus athletic director Pete Jones and Dan Henrickson, Genese, Smith and Halloran. Afterward, the emotional players went back to play the game.

Cheryl Gavin noted that after the tough, one-point loss to the Highlanders, one of the boys said to her that he felt like he "had let Kyle down.''

"I told him he could never let Kyle down and that the fact he was honoring Kyle five years later was simply amazing,'' she said. "I will always be thankful for everything the community at St. Peter-Marian has given my family (she is also an SPM graduate) and the school will also hold a special place in my heart.''

The kindness and compassion of Henrickson and Genese didn't stop with the tribute. They and fellow senior Dan Bushe volunteered countless hours at UMass Medical Center working with two brain-injured men. Since then, they also have completed a clothing drive to help one of the men, who has been released from the hospital.

"They are definitely great kids who show a lot of compassion for others,'' Tom Henrickson said.

Contact Steve Kendall


Follow him on Twitter @tgsports.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Oct 31, 2013
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