Wyatt Pope had a smile that stretched from ear to ear.
And when his relatives, teachers, classmates and others saw it, they couldn’t help but break into a grin, too, said those who knew him.
“He was always smiling, and his positive attitude was infectious,” said Heidi Dailey, the Project Success site coordinator at Pinecrest Elementary School, where the 9-year-old Georgetown boy was a fourth-grader. “I never saw him having a bad day.”
“He was one of the brightest, sweetest students anybody could ever ask for,” added Mackenzie Thorman, Wyatt’s teacher.
“He was a friend to everybody, and he was a house leader,” Thorman said, adding that the school’s “houses” took their names from the Harry Potter books. “He was an Integrous leader and just beside himself when he was announced. They lead the house meetings every once a month, and the last time he led, he was the star in a play about honesty.”
More than 100 people gathered at the flagpole in front of the Carle Heart & Vascular Institute in Urbana on Sunday afternoon to honor Wyatt, who through his death is helping to save or enhance the lives of others as an organ donor, according to Carle and Gift of Hope officials.
Wyatt and his father — Tyler J. Pope, 29, of Danville — were involved in a four-vehicle accident on Illinois 1 north of Georgetown on Wednesday morning when Mr. Pope was taking his son to school.
Mr. Pope died that same day at OSF Sacred Heart Medical Center in Danville, while Wyatt succumbed to his injuries at Carle on Saturday morning.
Many Vermilion County schools are on fall break this week. So Pinecrest Principal Ashley Vaughn said school officials are asking students and school staff throughout the county to wear red and black in honor of Wyatt on Oct. 22. Those are the Chicago Bulls’ colors, and Wyatt was a superfan, Thorman said.
That’s one of Pinecrest’s “Two Quarter Tuesdays,” in which students can dress up in a designated theme, if they donate 50 cents to a designated cause. Vaughn said the money raised that day will be donated to Wyatt’s family to help with funeral expenses.
Dailey is also setting up a special fund at Longview Bank & Trust in Georgetown for Wyatt’s family to help with funeral expenses.
At the ceremony, Melissa Keeble, a Carle chaplain, pointed to the window of Wyatt’s hospital room, covered with cards and drawings made by his classmates and friends.
Then they — along with family, friends and many from the Georgetown community, including teachers and firefighters and EMTs — watched as Keeble and Lola Lewis from Gift of Hope raised the organ and tissue donor network’s purple flag, which will fly for 24 hours.
One relative who spoke said Wyatt “was probably looking down on everyone from heaven and smiling. We’ll see him again one day.”