Hours after Cody Sherrell’s death, his classmates and teachers at La Center Middle School struggled with their own grief while wondering how they could best aid the boy’s family in its time of need, officials said.
Sherrell, a 14-year-old eighth-grader, died very late Monday night at Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel in Portland, hospital officials said, six days after he suffered sudden cardiac arrest at the end of basketball practice inside his school’s gym.
La Center Middle School students received support from the school district’s three counselors, Superintendent Mark Mansell said Tuesday, noting both students and teachers grappled with questions about how someone so seemingly healthy could die so young.
“We’re all trying to understand and trying to get a sense of why this happened,” Mansell said Tuesday by phone. “We’re trying to figure out how in the world we can take something as tragic as this and turn it into something positive.”
According to its preliminary plan, the school district will honor Sherrell at the middle school’s home opener against Hockinson Middle School on Jan. 19, Mansell said.
Attendees will not be charged a ticket fee, but would be asked to make a donation to offset his family’s medical bills, the superintendent added. Sherrell’s Kobe Bryant shoes and his No. 24 jersey — the same number as his favorite player, Bryant — will be displayed during the ceremony honoring the teen.
Sherrell’s parents, Brandon and Renee Sherrell, have been invited to the game, Mansell said.
Sherrell’s parents released a written statement Monday night through the children’s hospital thanking first responders and hospital staff for providing their son care and the La Center community for its support.
Hundreds of La Center residents held a vigil for Sherrell on Sunday night. His basketball teammates wrote letters of encouragement last week, as did the school’s sixth-grade class, of which his younger sister is a member.
“Cody was a quiet boy,” the Sherrell family’s statement said. “It’s brought us such joy to know he touched so many lives.”
Sherrell had started to overcome his shyness this school year, officials said.
He won La Center Middle School’s Student of the Month in October. He took a particular interest in math and drama classes, La Center Middle School Principal David Cooke said.
The boy’s transformation culminated with him trying out for the school’s basketball team Jan. 3. His parents purchased him Kobe Bryant basketball shoes as a reward for playing on the school team, officials said.
Sherrell had an “active” practice, coaches said, noting he gave no indication anything was wrong. Moments before coaches were set to close practice, he fell over and stopped breathing.
La Center Middle School basketball coach Tom Rice and parent Greg Morgan performed CPR on Sherrell until paramedics arrived, school officials said. Their quick actions prevented the boy from dying in the gym, doctors said.
Sherrell was taken by ambulance to Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, before being moved to Randall Children’s Hospital.
Hospital officials did not release information Tuesday on Sherrell’s death, citing his family’s wish for privacy.
Cooke did not return a phone call Tuesday afternoon.
Donations to Sherrell’s family can be made at any local Columbia Credit Union.
Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.facebook.com/raylegend; www.twitter.com/col_smallcities; firstname.lastname@example.org.