CATALDO — A parent losing a child is a heart wrenching situation that can arguably be never gotten over. The only thing that can even marginally help in a tragic time such as this is receiving support from loved ones and a close-knit community.
Students and staff of Canyon Elementary School showed their support on Wednesday for the family of former student Wyatt Blalack, who died this summer on July 26.
Wyatt, who would have been a third-grader this year, suffered from cerebral palsy since birth and had attended Canyon Elementary since he was in first grade.
His illness did not allow him to communicate verbally or have solid control over his hands or legs (forcing him to be in a wheelchair), but these things didn’t stop him from participating in the classroom.
During the three days a week that he attended school, Canyon Elementary principal Jennifer Ferreira explained that Wyatt could communicate by pointing at things and getting responses.
“He was a very intelligent student,” she said. “He did really well with computer type things where there was multiple choice and he could point.”
On the social side of school, Wyatt would bring joy to students and staff alike with his incredible smile and positive attitude.
“He was always smiling, always happy to be at school. Kids loved him, he was very approachable,” Ferreira said. “It was often a reward for who gets to sit next to Wyatt during lunch or who gets to push him on the swing. Everybody loved to be around Wyatt.”
Speaking of the swing, Wyatt’s favorite activity at school was to go back and forth on his personal swing on the playground. When it came time, he would be lifted out of his wheelchair and placed into the unique swing — similar in appearance to a plastic car seat — where he and his fellow students would have endless fun together.
Since his passing, his swing at Canyon Elementary has become a temporary memorial and a source of inspiration to help others who may be wheelchair-bound.
On Sept. 4, Canyon Elementary staff and students filed out of the school to form a human circle around the swing and blow bubbles to honor their former classmate. Students also carried with them handmade cards that were made out to Wyatt and his family. These cards were given to the family following the ceremony.
“It was beautiful, just perfect,” Wyatt’s mother Stephanie Blalack said of the ceremony. “He touched a lot of lives.”
Four days after his passing, Ferreira created a GoFundMe account in honor of Wyatt with the goal of purchasing a swing similar to his that could be installed at the Pinehurst City Park.
“The Blalack family has always been frustrated with the limited accessibility to parks and swings, and things like that in our area,” she said.
It didn’t take long to realize how much of an impression Wyatt had on the community, as money started pouring in for the cause. As of Thursday, the campaign has raised nearly $10,000 to go toward a new swing.
With the surprising overflow of support, the Blalacks and Ferreira are now setting their sights on a top-of-line swing that the users of any size could simply roll their whole wheelchair into, lock it in and have fun.
“We just wanted to get something similar to what is here (Canyon Elementary) in the park, but the community gave us so much support,” Stephanie said.
Since this type of swing in particular is only sold in Europe, and is quite expensive, the money raised will most likely go toward fabricating one here locally.
Wyatt’s chair at Canyon Elementary will be sent to Kellogg Middle School to be used by another special needs student.
A memorial bench is in the works for Wyatt and is expected to be up sometime during the 2019-2020 school year.
Wyatt’s GoFundMe account can be found by searching “In loving memory of Wyatt Blalack” on the website.