Dozens of pink, purple and red balloons filled the sky over an Evans day care center Thursday in honor of a 4-year-old girl who recently drowned.
The balloon release was a way for classmates, friends and relatives to celebrate the life of Jayden Kerns, who 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, reflecting Jayden’s favorite colors, disappeared into the afternoon sky.
Jay and Mandra Kerns held on to 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.
“These candles represent the fact that her love and her friendship brought so much light into our lives,” said Dave Willis, a pastor at Stevens Creek Community Church.
Before leading the group in prayer, Willis, the family’s pastor, thanked people for their prayers, support and love.
At the service, a rock garden was dedicated in Jayden’s memory.
Jayden’s classmates helped design the colorful rocks, which surround a white cross with her 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 has 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, whom she described as the “sweetest thing in the whole world.”
“She’d do anything for anybody,” the teacher said.