The outpouring of support in the wake of the tragic death of Highland High School student Kelly Tracy has been nothing short of amazing. Kelly, a 16 year old sophomore at Highland was killed by a drunk driver on Saturday morning, November 15. She was on her way to join her marching band that was going to march in the Gilbert Days Parade.
This is my daughter’s first year in the Highland Marching Band. I quickly realized how close the kids get to each other. They spend a lot of time together and work very hard.
As a rookie band parent, what I didn’t realize is our band family extends past Highland and into every band. Word of Kelly’s tragic death spread quickly throughout the Phoenix area high school bands, and throughout the Valley itself.
Here are but a few of the very cool, and very touching things I’ve witnessed in the past week.
Kelly’s funeral was on Friday. Approximately 600 people attended the service, and we were treated to some wonderful lyrics that Kelly wrote, and her brother Matt and friends wrote music for. Kelly’s mom read an amazing prayer that Kelly had written. Her belief and faith really shined through.
Later that evening, Highland played Brophy in a football playoff game. Prior to the game we held a pizza party for the band (ever seen 150 teenagers demolish 70 large pizza’s?) and were treated to a private show by the Phoenix College Jazz Band. Many of the kids got out their instruments and jammed with the band. It was very therapeutic for the kids and very entertaining for those of us lucky enough to have been there. A very special thanks to Milas Yoes, Director of Bands, Jazz Studies and Music History at Phoenix College!
Here’s a short video of Highland student Jacob Weiss showing some mad saxophone skills as he solo’s with the Phoenix College Jazz Band.
At game time, the wonderful folks at Brophy allowed the Highland band to take the field and play the National Anthem. Everyone in the stands gave the band a rousing standing ovation as they took the field. Later in the game the Brophy pep band joined the Highland band and together they played the Highland Fight Song — which the Brophy kids had taken the time to learn. What a class act that was. Brophy also made a very significant financial contribution to the Kelly Tracy Memorial Fund.
Here’s a video of the Highland Band playing the HHS Fight Song at the Brophy game. This was their first appearance since Kelly’s death:
On Saturday, several area bands — including every high school band in the Gilbert School District — held car washes to raise money for the Tracy family. I visited the other Gilbert schools car washes and met kids, parents and music faculty at each location. The support and concern these people expressed for Kelly, her family and her fellow band mates was overwhelming. The community support was incredible as I saw long lines of cars at each schools location, and many, MANY instances of people simply pulling over to give cash and express condolences and best wishes for the Tracy family. At the other schools events, I talked to kids, faculty and parents and all expressed grief and shock at Kelly’s death. Hugs and tears were shared. The Gilbert Police and Fire departments joined in, by washing cars and getting their fire trucks and even the Gilbert paddy wagon washed.
Here are a few photos from the area car washes:
Gilbert High School Car Wash – THANKS GHS!
Desert Ridge High School Car Wash – THANKS DRHS!
Mesquite High School Car Wash – THANKS MHS!
The Highland Hawks were flying high – and washing a LOT of cars. Over $6,500 was collected just at the Highland High car wash!
Too much fun was had washing the Gilbert Police paddy wagon!
Cars at Highland were backed up 20 deep all day long.
Some very enthusiastic Highland band kids driving traffic.
Washing, drying, standing on a corner, all the kids (and many parents) worked very hard at Highland (and across the Valley).
Photographic evidence that my daughter (in purple) really CAN wash our car.
Also on Saturday was the Gilbert Days Rodeo. The Rodeo was dedicated to Kelly, they allotted some of the parking fee proceeds to Kelly’s family and a booth was set up to sell memorial patches and stickers. I wasn’t able to attend, but April Fitzsimmons, a HHS Drumline Mom had this to say in an email she sent me:
It was amazing! They had a moment of silence for Kelly and then people came by the booth and just handed over cash wanting nothing in return except to pass along their condolences to the Tracy family and to let them know they are praying for them. Special thanks to the Gilbert Days Rodeo!!
April sent along this photo:
Finally, on Saturday night, a candlelight vigil was held for Kelly at Highland High School. Here is a video by Tony D’Astoli of the East Valley Tribune that captures some of the vigil.
As tragic and senseless as Kelly’s death was, the outpouring of support — often by complete strangers — does help restore one’s faith in humanity. Kelly was taken from us at far too young an age, and the Tracy’s are facing unimaginable pain. Life must go on of course, and it will. Over time the painful memories of this week will fade. The good memories, and the love for Kelly Tracy will live on forever.