LA CENTER — Write a letter to Cody.
Grief counselors gave the 50 or so boys who had tried out for the basketball team pens and paper Wednesday morning and stepped back. Moments earlier, the boys were at a loss for words to describe how they were coping with the events of Tuesday’s practice, when 14-year-old Cody Sherrell collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest.
The counselors’ directive eased the tension, school officials said.
The writing exercise proved to be a galvanizing one for the La Center Middle School students, who are grappling with tough questions as their classmate Sherrell remains in critical condition at Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel in Portland, Principal David Cooke said.
“The kids picked up on it,” Cooke said of the counselors’ idea. “They know somebody is hurting and they just respond. It’s just incredible. It’s just an amazing community.”
The school’s sixth-graders are also expected to make cards for Sherrell. His sister is in sixth grade, officials said.
The cards will be delivered to Sherrell’s parents so they can put them in his hospital room.
Rumors about Sherrell’s condition buzzed around the community Tuesday night through word of mouth and Facebook, officials said.
La Center Middle School has 400 students between the sixth and eighth grades. Many students have known each other since they started school.
School officials decided to address rumors circulating about Sherrell’s condition Wednesday morning by informing students he was in “serious” condition at the hospital, Cooke said. Doing so let students know they could trust the officials, Cooke said.
Boys who tried out for the school’s basketball team Tuesday were brought to the school’s library, where they were offered counseling. A few students suggested writing Sherrell a letter before school started.
Counselors met with the basketball players around 8:15 a.m. The students were told they could stay in the library as long as they needed. By 9 a.m., most of them had left for class, district counselor Kristin Krem said.
“They had a lot of energy and didn’t know what to do with it,” she said, explaining why having them write letters provided calm.
The rest of the student body also received the opportunity to meet with grief counselors. Cooke said he had never brought grief counselors into the school during his seven years as principal.
Students’ main question was why, Krem said. They also wanted to know how the heart of someone their age could suddenly stop beating.
They also shared their recollections.
“One kid said he’s the kindest person he’s ever met,” Krem said. Most described Sherrell as “pretty quiet,” the counselor added.
Others looked forward to his return to school.
“Some kids said they didn’t know him well but can’t wait to play basketball with him when he gets back,” Krem said.