Phil LeGeyt had one wish as a red maple tree at Canton Intermediate School was planted and dedicated to his late daughter Casey.
“May all those who pass under her branches feel the warmth of her heart,” LeGeyt said.
Most Canton Intermediate School students are too young to remember Casey LeGeyt, but all were present last week for the ceremony, the idea of some of their peers.
Casey succumbed to leukemia in August of 2005 after completing seventh grade.
Students at the school planted a tree after her death, but it was damaged in the snowstorm last October. Though it’s showing signs of recovery, a group of students, known as “The Tree Group” raised funds for a new one.
Students included Ronzell Green, Julia and Anna Poleyestewa, Christine Babbitt, Alex Simmons, Robbie Karson, and Kayla Sherman-Burns.
The ceremony to dedicate the new tree was an emotional one as some of her family members and former teachers spoke about Casey’s life.
Her fourth-grade teacher Beth Dropick struggled to get the words out as the tears flowed. She said Casey was her teacher and friend.
“Her positive energy was contagious,” Dropick said. “Everyone who came into contact with Casey couldn’t help but feel great.”
Casey’s sixth-grade teacher Erik Perotti said she was a person who showed respect to others, improved academically and cooperated with others. He also said Casey wanted to be a teacher.
“Casey would have been a great one and her positive nature and great disposition would have been contagious throughout the school, but Casey however didn’t need to live a long life to touch those around her. She would do that in just 13 short years,” Perotti said.
Jeannine LeGeyt thanked the students for their work and said it was the latest action from a supportive community.
“That’s a difficult thing to lose a child,” she said. “I can’t imagine going through that without the love, the support — ongoing love and support — of the people of Canton. I’ll be forever grateful and you are all always in my prayers and I am just so thankful for this honor.”
Casey’s cousin Cindi Brickett said the involvement of the students made the event especially meaningful.
“It’s always more special when people her age are contributing and giving back already,” she said.