Sports rivals helping Monroe deal with the tragic death of a student

The Southwestern Buckeye League is showing its support for grief-stricken Monroe High School.

Monroe is reeling from the death of senior Kaylie Jackson, who was involved in a car crash on her way to prom last Friday and passed away Monday, and league schools have reacted with a wave of compassion.

On the softball field, the Hornets have felt that love all week.

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“Every single game we’ve gone to this week, they’ve either given us a card, had a moment of silence or prayed with us like this game,” Monroe senior Mikayla Decker said Thursday after the Hornets defeated visiting Bellbrook 9-4. “It’s really helpful, and it’s really helped ease the pain of the situation.”

Monroe coach Tim Kellis said several of his players were close friends with Jackson. He’s sure the healing process will be lengthy.

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The Hornets played at Oakwood on Monday and Eaton on Wednesday before returning home to face Bellbrook.

“Every school in our league has reached out to our team through emails, through Twitter … every one of them,” Kellis said. “It’s just been unbelievable how the people you want to beat really get it. This is far bigger than a softball game. I think it’s helped our kids learn about how most people are.”

When word spread Monday that Jackson had died, Kellis said he asked his four seniors — Decker, Faith Hensley, Kylie Wilson and Hailey Stevens — what they wanted to do with their game that day. He told them he would postpone the contest if that’s what they wanted.

“All four of them said, ‘Coach, we want to play. We need the release,’ ” Kellis said.

He said the tragedy has strengthened the bonds within the Monroe community. He talked about a campaign to support the Jackson family financially with gift cards, an effort that prompted one elementary school student to empty her piggy bank and donate 38 cents.

“These kids are trying to understand why this happened,” Kellis said. “We’re trying to tell them that sometimes we don’t know why things happen. God lets things happen for a reason. There’s going to be some good that’s going to come out of this. We just don’t know what that’s going to be.

“Then you start hearing stories about how people are donating and supporting our community. Kaylie was an organ donor, so that’s a great thing. These kids are still hurting, but I’ve been real proud of how they’re dealing with this. Our coaches have got to be more of a dad than a coach right now.”

Decker said Jackson “was always someone I kept in touch with and always someone that was there and I could always turn to if I ever needed something. It’s been a rough week, but having the community we live in has made it a lot easier.”

The Bellbrook players gave their Monroe counterparts hair ribbons Thursday and joined them for a pregame prayer on the field. That prayer was written by Golden Eagles sophomore Kaley Clark.

“All of our girls wore the yellow ribbons as well just as a nice gesture and to let them know that we’re thinking about them,” Bellbrook coach Angela Cook said. “Honestly, that’s what it’s about.”

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