What to do after a hard loss: keep the story of Maddie Potts alive

What to do after a hard loss: keep the story of Maddie Potts alive

Record-Journal
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Students have created a makeshift memorial honoring the late Maddie Potts, in the student parking lot at Chariho High School. The painting is based on a photo of her with her lacrosse stick and a sunset in the background. | Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun

Her friends are worried that Maddie Potts, as popular and as big a personality as she was in the Chariho High School community and beyond, will be forgotten. They’ve created a memorial at her assigned parking space at the high school, and it includes more than flowers and candles. They painted her likeness from a photo of her holding a lacrosse stick with the sunset in the background.

Mike Kirby, a local landscaper and president of the school’s sports Boosters Club, planted mums at the head of he parking space after removing cut flowers that had started to wilt.

“Now there’s chairs there and people sit and reflect,” school Superintendent Barry Ricci said Friday morning when asked how things were going just about two weeks after her death. “We won’t be reassigning her parking spot.”

Potts, a senior captain of the girls soccer team, died of a brain aneurysm after collapsing on the field during a soccer match Sept. 23 against Middletown High School. She was lining up for penalty kick, so all eyes were on her when it happened.

“I’ve been through this too many times,” Ricci said, “but this one especially was very difficult. The circumstances around it, the way it happened, where it happened, her stature in the school.

“It’s still raw, especially for the kids on the team and the coaches. It’s much better this week than last week. There’s a memorial set up near her parking spot and they find some comfort in that,” he said. “They ask a lot about what to do. They don’t always know what to do just like adults don’t always know what to do. I say keep telling Maddie’s story — that will keep her alive. They are afraid its going to fade.”

Ricci said he also tries to remind the students of the powerful way the community came together, with more than a thousand people at the vigil on the Monday night after her death, and with players from schools across the state participating and showing support for the Chariho players in the days afterward.

“It clearly brought the community together,” Ricci said. “The contrast between the sadness and hurt and the community coming together simultaneously was very powerful.”

Powerful is how the Rev.Wayne Eberly of Dunns Corners Community Church Presbyterian, where her memorial service was held, described Maddie’s death and the outpouring of support that followed.

“Everything about it was unique. The public venue — it was so unexpected. It just rocked people, but at the same time it allowed the community to come together. Some of the remembrances have been powerful.”

He said he’s finding that families from the church are trying to reach out to Stephanie and Dan Potts and Maddie’s sister Julia.

“Pastors know how difficult it is not having answers but needing to create a safe space for people. In a positive way it brings people together as one community, but loss is particularly hard for young people. They’re in a very vulnerable spot.”

Ricci is urging Maddie’s classmates to keep the unity and sense of camaraderie going. He knows they’ll need one another’s support as the year goes on and all the rituals of prom and senior week and graduation go on without Maddie.


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