A thousand balloons launched for Syracuse teen

Sunday , August 17, 2014 - 7:19 PM

Standard-Examiner staff

SYRACUSE -- It was a night for family, friends, neighbors and teammates to come together as a community and honor the young girl who affected them all.

The evening began upbeat and celebratory, then became somber and reverent as hundreds of people gathered in Founders Park on Saturday to support the family of Marli Hamblin, who lost her life this month.

The memorial was set up in remembrance of Hamblin by her fellow Syracuse High School cheerleaders. Proceeds from a fundraiser went to Hamblin’s family to help pay for medical and funeral costs. 

Hamblin was accidentally run over in her driveway while sunbathing on Aug. 8. She died at the hospital two days later.

Even though the team has been practicing together only since April, they have already formed a strong family bond that compelled the team to do something, coach Stephanie Bowen said.

“When these girls practice together, they really need to trust each other, so they quickly form a cheer family,” Bowen said. “When somebody is missing, we really feel it.”

Teammate Karsyn Bingham said every person who comes to support the Hamblins shows how much their daughter was loved throughout the community.

“It’s given us motivation, that now we’re not just cheering for the team, we’re cheering for Marli,” Kylie Simonson said.

The different opportunities to raise money for Hamblin’s family included selling T-shirts, bumper stickers and balloons that attendees would release into the sky at the end of the night. Many of the items bore the social media tag, “#SyracuseStrong” which began circulating this summer with the deaths of three other students of Syracuse High School in the past two months. Ariah Bosworth, and Daulton and Jaxon Whatcott, who lost their lives this summer, are also remembered through the tag.

Social media was, in part, what helped bring out so many people to the event, Bowen said.

Many people who attended were connected to Hamblin and the honorees of #SyracuseStrong in some way. 

Michelle and Pat White came with their kids, who all had connections to Hamblin, the Whatcotts and Bosworth.

“My daughter was friends with Marli, my son played sports with the Whatcotts and my other daughter was friends with Ariah,” Michelle White said.

The summer has been tough on the family, but the opportunity to support the Hamblins was healing.

“It’s really pulled us together and made a support group,” Pat White said. “The three families are huge in the community, everybody knows them, so it’s been tough.”

The crowd was made up of high school students from Syracuse High and even other schools.

The cheerleader team from Fremont High School came in full force to support the Syracuse team, who they said helped them in their time of need.

“They were there for us when we were going through a sad time when we lost Kennedy Hansen,” Fremont cheerleader Matti Linford said. 

Hansen,16, died this year of Juvenile Batten Disease, which was a tragic blow to the school and community.

“We compete against each other the whole year, but we still love them,” Oliva Henderson said.

As the evening drew to a close, attendees of the memorial gathered together for a prayer and for Hamblin’s teammates to give her one final cheer.

The team shouted, “We love you Marli!” before everyone’s balloons were released. 

About a thousand blue balloons flew westward into the sunset, and a blanket of silence fell over the crowd of onlookers. 

Local singer Noelle Bybee sang a song written in honor of Marli as the cloud of balloons drifted upward and tears were shed by Hamblin’s friends and family.

The Syracuse cheerleaders huddled together, some sobbing and some smiling, to support each other as they said goodbye to their friend.

At the end of the night, at least $10,000 was raised for the Hamblin family, event organizer Denise Taylor said.

Donations for the Hamblin family are still being accepted at the “Miracle for Marli“ GoFundMe site.

Contact reporter Andreas Rivera at 801-625-4227 or arivera@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Andreas.

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