Victims remembered at Neshobe School
BRANDON — Four-year-old Aiden Decker has seen his share of tragedy. His father, Joey Decker, died of a heroin overdose in 2007. Then, after a heroic act on the part of his maternal grandmother, Aiden escaped death in the icy waters of Lake Dunmore on Jan. 9 when Terry Flynn tossed him onto the ice as her snowmobile was sinking into the lake.
Terry Flynn survived, as did Aiden and, miraculously, his six-year-old cousin Jeremiah Popp.
This past Saturday, on a gorgeous, blue winter day, Aiden joined with a group at the Neshobe School playground in Brandon to release balloons in memory of his three family members who perished two weeks earlier in a fatal snowmobile accident when three snowmobiles fell through the ice: Aiden’s cousin and Jeremiah’s sister Bryanna Popp, 3; Aiden and Jeremiah’s maternal grandfather, Kevin Flynn, 50; and their aunt, Carrie Flynn, 24.
About 50 donated helium balloons were released as a fund-raiser for the families who have lost so much in this tragic turn of events. Family friend Gerry Cummings organized the event.
“I heard they were having a rough time,” she said. “They can use the proceeds to pay bills or better yet, take a trip for the weekend.”
Cummings said a very special thanks go to Bernie and Beth Carr of Carr’s Florist and Gifts in Brandon and Neshobe School Principal Judy Pulsifer.
The principal was fully supportive of the balloon release, having known the families involved for a long time.
“It’s important for kids especially,” she said. “It’s something that’s concrete in their minds; and death, as we all know, is so abstract. We would do whatever we could for this family.
The multi-colored balloons were gathered in the school’s lobby Saturday afternoon as parents and children wrote their messages to Bryanna on heart-shaped notes attached to the balloon strings. Erin Otto’s four-year-old son, Gavin Roberts, was a pre-school classmate of Bryanna’s. Erin helped Gavin write “miss you and love you” on four different balloon notes.
Bryanna’s pre-school teacher Debbie Lendway agreed that the balloon release was a positive step for her class.
“It think it’s good for the kids,” she said. “It’s something they can see. Maybe someone will read the notes.”
Aiden Decker picked out two purple, two pink and one green balloon to release.
“We release balloons all the time,” said his grandmother Karen Decker, who also works at Neshobe. “Sometimes we’ll be driving along and he’ll ask if we can do a balloon, so we go get one and let it go.”
Aiden and Jeremiah did the countdown for the balloon release Saturday on the playground. The 50 or so multi-colored balloons released and stayed together as they climbed higher and higher into the bluest of skies. There was no wind, and the 30 or so parents and kids — including Bryanna’s parents, Katy and Donovan Popp, and her other siblings. Dominic, 16, and Sam, 17 — stood and watched as the balloons got smaller and smaller in the winter sky.
Lendway said the ordeal has affected all the parents at the school.
“You can tell when the parents come and pick up their kids,” she said. “They hug them a little tighter.”
Readers wishing to help Bryanna’s family can send donations to Jeremiah’s Education Fund, c/o Brandon Bank, 2 Park St., Brandon, VT 05733.