Dozens of pink, purple and red balloons filled the sky over an Evans daycare center Thursday in honor of a 4-year-old girl classmate who recently drowned.
The balloon release was a way for classmates, friends and family to celebrate the life of Jayden Kerns, which was tragically cut short when she drowned Nov. 3 in her family’s swimming pool at their Rutledge Way home in Evans.
About 100 children and adults stood outside A Child’s World on Hardy-McManus Road in Evans and watched as the balloons, chosen in Jayden’s favorite colors, floated into the afternoon sky.
Jayden’s parents, Jay and Mandra Kerns, held onto a large white balloon in honor of their daughter. Before releasing it, Mandra Kerns passed the balloon to her husband as she bent down to greet and hug children in Jayden’s pre-kindergarten class.
Members of the crowd were given white candles to hold at the memorial service.
“These candles represent the fact that her love and her friendship brought so much light into our lives,” said Stevens Creek Community Church Pastor Dave Willis.
Before leading the group in prayer, Willis, the family’s pastor, thanked people for their prayers, support and love on behalf of Jayden’s parents.
At the service, a rock garden also was dedicated in Jayden’s memory.
Jayden’s classmates helped to design the colorful rocks, which surrounded a white cross with Jayden’s name on it and a young rose tree anchored by an angel statue.
“It’s been very tough,” said Jayden’s pre-k teacher, Jessica McCall. “We just tell the kids that Jayden is the sunshine and that’s the sun shining down on us.”
McCall said she’s also read a book called What is Heaven Like to help the young children cope in a way they can understand.
McCall knew Jayden, nicknamed “Jaydenbug,” as a joyful child, who she described as the “sweetest thing in the whole world.”
“She’d do anything for anybody,” she said.