MONTICELLO, Ill. (WCIA) — Over 9 years ago, a tragedy struck the Monticello community when elementary student Andrew Bryant passed away.
Bryant was wheelchair bound as he battled Muscular Dystrophy, a fight he lost in 2011. He would have been 23-years-old this year.
Despite the hard times, he did not let that get in the way of him living his best life.
Monticello Middle School has been open for 16 years and for 15 years, Jeanne Handley has been the principal of the middle school.
She has seen many students come and go, but still remembers him and the impact he had on the community.
“He had a smile that would light up a room. Even if he was having a rough day, he’d make you smile. You never really knew how badly he was feeling just based on how he presented himself to everyone around him.”
A classmate and close friend of Bryant’s, Tyler Jones, worked hard to make sure Bryant’s memory would not be forgotten.
He helped create Andrew Bryant Day on November 9 and it was named a city-wide holiday. This day is to raise awareness for muscular dystrophy and to remember Bryant’s legacy.
Jones’ hope is that this tragedy gives kids the opportunity to discuss how to handle traumatic events.
Jones also started a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money for scholarships for students in Monticello.
Donations were collected for Bryant’s headstone and the monument company even contacted DC Comics to see if they could arrange to have a Batman symbol engraved on his headstone, since he loved the superhero, and it was allowed.
Handley says this memory helps honor others.
“He was a shining light. But we lost other students and it’s almost like a memorial to all those who have passed… He was a kid that, when I just take a moment to think about… it just makes me smile.”