WHITMAN — A vigil was held on the soccer fields at Whitman Middle School on Friday, Feb. 21 in honor of four members of the Smith family who perished in a car crash while on vacation in Orlando, Fla., last week.
Organizers included Whitman Youth Soccer President Helen Iannone, Vice President Stephanie Blackman, Boys’ Director Jamie Sousa as well as several other community sports leaders and volunteers. The memorial included impactful statements and memories from Jamie Sousa who coached Jaxon. She was connected to the family and shared love of the sport with him. She offered heartfelt memories of her time cut short with the young athlete.
Jaxon Smith was only 11, a middle school student in Hanson. He was killed in the crash as well as his younger sister, preschooler Scarlett, 5, his mom Julie, and grandmother Josephine Fay of Weymouth.
Will Litchfield, a soccer teammate of Jaxon’s was given a new pair of footwear by the family. The package had arrived for him when they arrived home from Disney after the tragedy.
He clutched the package that was given to him by Erin Condon, Jaxon’s cousin.
“I feel proud,” said Litchfield as he walked off with his friends, candles in hand.
A statement was released by the family, thanking the town as well as numerous others in their support after the fatal accident.
‘’The Fay/Smith families greatly appreciate the outpouring of support and prayers as we process the events of this horrific tragedy,” it read. “We are truly heartbroken. Among the many individuals, groups and organizations that have assisted during this difficult time we wanted to highlight the efforts of the first responders in Orlando, the medical staff at the Orlando Regional Medical Center and the Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital Disney, Jetblue, TSA and The Massachusetts State Police. We also want to thank the Hartman family who assisted in Orlando. We continue to grieve for the loss of our loved ones. Thank you for your outpouring of kindness.”
On Friday night, the soccer field was packed with sports teams, including several boys soccer teams in which he played over the years along with fellow students, teachers, neighbors and friends of the family; as well as those offering support to the grieving community at the Whitman Middle School soccer field.
Eric Frank a resident of Whitman for 40 years, a father of three, and a soccer league volunteer and coach for 10 years said it was devastating to learn of the tragedy. His son played with Jaxon on fall of 2018.
Parents were seen embracing and consoling their children and their friends who held lights in memory of the Smiths.
Corinna Mac Donald a 3rd grader and her little sister Layla a first-grader were visibly saddened at the event. They knew the family and her friend through cheerleading and she wanted to tell her friend Shalie that she hopes “she isn’t sad.” She tried to write a message of hope on the memorial boards that the family would receive from the organizers in the days following the event. They were pinned to the soccer board so everyone could sign them.
The Smiths were remembered by other moms as a small town family who were hands-on, raising polite, respectful kids.
In statements earlier in the week released by the Whitman Hanson Regional School District Superintendent Jeff Szymaniak schools would have counseling services for students and staff in the weeks to come.