Community remembers Kawuan Ray through playing a sport he loved

Published: Jan. 18, 2021 at 5:23 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Student-athlete Kawuan Ray died suddenly from a medical emergency in December. Monday, the community is remembering him through playing a sport he loved while learning how to cope with the loss.

Former Roanoke Catholic and Patrick Henry High School student athlete, 18-year-old Ray, loved playing flag football. So some of his friends and his brothers joined together to play and go through grief counseling at the Star City Soccer Center. It’s called Kawuan Ray Day.

“He was an awesome sports player, but he was an even better person. He loved helping out, loved cooking and just being there for his friends and his brothers and his sister,” Toyloanda Thomas, Ray’s Mother, said.

Thomas said seeing how much the community cares about her son is helping her to heal.

“I know he’s happy to see everybody out here, so it means a lot to see all these kids coming out and just remembering my son and what he was about and hopefully they can continue on his legacy with just being there for people when they need help and being the best person they can be,” Thomas said.

Licensed therapist Daniel Brooks helped organize Monday’s Kawuan Ray Day. It’s part of Brooks’ program Motivate the Game, which is focused on grief counseling for athletes and falls under his mental health service Good Counsel.

“What we do, we talk about grief, we talk about loss even in our sessions, so I said, what better way to kind of help our community to heal than to come together to celebrate his life,” said Brooks, therapeutic training director for Motivate The Game.

Some teams and Ray’s four brothers came out to play flag football and take part in grief counseling, all while raising money for Ray’s family.

“It just speaks volumes to his character and who he was in the community and the lasting effect he’s going to have on everybody ... Just seeing the smiles, seeing the conversations, seeing them having a good time in his memory, that’s what it’s about,” Brooks said.

Motivate the Game plans to make this Kawuan Ray Day an annual event.

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