I was devastated to hear this news. This morning, I had a chance to briefly speak to his mother on the telephone. There were no words besides "I'm so sorry." The world has suffered a huge loss with the death of Richie. I've never met a neater kid. He was an example of courage, strength, and compassion. Three years ago, his lungs showed signs of rejection. Richie and his mom traveled to St. Louis (where his transplant took place) and began looking at anti-rejection options. At the same time, Allie was fighting her cancer and placed on an anti-rejection medication, ATG. Richie called me in the hospital one afternoon very upset. He told me about his rejection possibilities and about how the ATG he was taking was making him very ill. He was VERY upset that Allie was taking this medicine. "She's a baby, Mrs. Scott, she's just a baby." He hated that as hard as the ATG was on his body, a tiny baby was going through the same discomfort and hardship. He wasn't complaining for himself. He never did.
I have so many fun memories of Richie with his group. My favorite is probably from our "fashion show" presentation to the sixth graders about dress code. My students put on a skit for the sixth grade class to show what not to wear to school. We would have someone dress appropriately and someone inappropriately (such as too short of shorts, tank tops, or too baggy of jeans). At the very end of the skit, one of the kids told the students that most importantly, they didn't want to show up to school "dressed like this!" In walks Richie, all 60 lbs of him, in a clown outfit and a giant (I'm talking triple the size of his head) rainbow AFRO wig. The kids burst out laughing and Richie busted out into some crazy dance. I think that is the image I am going to remember Richie. With a giant afro.
Tomorrow, I am attending Richie's funeral with the PAL students. I am so very sorry for the loss of this amazing individual. At least I know someone else will be taking care of my Allie. A great companion for her--she loved a silly person--Richie sure knew how to be fun and silly!!
To the Herskowitz family--thank you for giving us all the gift of Richie in our lives. I know that I am a better person for knowing him.