BENSON — Friends, family and classmates gathered Aug. 31 to remember Meadow School student Caden Allen, who was killed in a car crash earlier this summer.
Allen, 13, was riding with his father, Curtis, when another vehicle ran a stop sign at the intersection of highways 55 and 242, according to the Highway Patrol. Classmates, teachers and school administrators were shocked by the tragedy and said Allen was well known and loved as a student.
At the memorial, held on the school’s football field, Allen was described as a cheerful, outgoing teen who often went out of his way to help others.
“He was a wonderful person,” said Cherry Johnson, a faculty member who had taught Caden. “He treated everyone well, regardless of popularity or finances.”
Students remembered the way he sought out classmates who seemed upset or depressed and tried to cheer them up. They remembered too his odd choice of footwear – he wore flip-flops year-round.
“He hated normal shoes,” said classmate Anna Weaver said after the memorial. “That’s what he wore every day, even in the winter.”
After his death, the school began collecting donations for a fund, named the Golden Flip-Flop Fund, to buy shoes and supplies for needy families. Principal Leigh White, one of the speakers at the memorial, said the fund would also help students and teachers remember Allen’s generosity.
“That’s what Caden did – he honored others,” White said “Caden will continue to be with us as an eighth-grader and we will continue to honor him.”
About 60 students, many of them Allen’s classmates since kindergarten, attended the memorial, along with a few of Allen’s family members and teachers. Each attendee received a black, purple, gold or red balloon. The black and gold balloons represented the school’s colors, while the red ones symbolized his passion and love for life, said Allen’s mother, Cindy. Purple was Allen’s favorite color, and many of the students wore purple in tribute to their late classmate.
Allen’s parents were both there, and his mother spoke to the students about the importance of keeping her son’s memory alive. “I want you, his classmates, to remember him this year,” she told students. “Share the milestones with his friends and family who miss him so much.”
Afterward, members of the crowd released their balloons as fifth-grade teacher Joey Panzarella played his rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.” Many students began to cry as they watched the balloons float away.
“He’s still a part of them,” said Johnson, the teacher. “They’ve kept his locker. It’s a great comfort to them knowing he’s still there.”