BROCTON – The roar of a dirt bike broke the silence at a memorial service Wednesday night for Damon Janes, the 16-year-old Brocton High School football player who died Monday after suffering a head injury during a game last week.
Damon’s bike – number 711 – circled the school’s football field and was parked near the 50-yard line.
Inside the field, family, close friends and classmates formed a tight circle. Hundreds of people were gathered in the stands and were invited along the sidelines, but they were asked to keep a respectful distance from the family.
The Brocton scoreboard was lit with Damon’s jersey number, 25.
“I have faith that the kids will help each other heal,” said John Hertlein, school superintendent.
He said there are about 40 students in Damon’s junior class. Many of them wore class shirts, football jerseys and the school’s colors of green and white to the service.
“Isn’t it impressive that the kids organized all this themselves?” the superintendent said.
The balloon launch, candles and music at the service were all selections made by classmates of Damon.
The dirt bike reflected an important hobby in the young man’s life, almost as important as athletics.
Damon, a junior running back on the Westfield-Brocton varsity squad, suffered a head injury during Friday night’s game in Portville.
A teammate said he believes Damon came in contact with the thigh of an opposing player.
Hertlein said counseling has been provided all week to students. “I think the parents and students have participated in the counseling services together.”
He said he was impressed by the number of parents reaching out to each other in the district.
Volunteer firefighters from throughout Chautauqua County helped park cars around the Brocton school campus. They ran out of spaces in the lots and improvised, using roadsides and driveways.
“It’s the beauty of a small town,” Hertlein said. “They come together to support one another.”
The regular meeting of the Brocton Board of Education was canceled Wednesday. Hertlein said the agenda was short and that it was better that board members and community residents had the chance to attend the service.
He said the meeting will be rescheduled for 7 p.m. next Wednesday.
Fundraising events are already planned to benefit the Janes family. A spaghetti dinner will be held Sept. 28.
“I know the dinner is the first of several fundraising events to help out the family,” Hertlein said.