STOW — After Keith Burkett was laid to rest Friday afternoon, dozens of his loved ones gathered at Silver Springs Cemetery to release balloons in his memory.
The 12-year-old Stow boy dubbed “Kourageous Keith” died Monday after a six-year journey with cancer.
The community has rallied behind Keith, coming together last month to give him an early Christmas, complete with a parade and houses along the route decorated for the holiday just for him. People from around the world followed the boy's story on the "Kourageous Keith" Facebook page.
“I just want everyone to know what an amazing, kind-hearted, loving, giving, gentle soul that he was,” his mother, Taylore Woodard, said in a Facebook message Tuesday. “And I hope that he taught everyone (that) life is short and that you should make the most of it and to always be loving and kind to each other, never take anything or anyone for granted and despite any obstacle you come across that you never give up. There is always hope, and miracles happen every day.”
Keith was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer called undifferentiated soft tissue sarcoma. He initially received an all-clear after chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, but the cancer later returned three times, most recently about six months ago, when it was found in his skull, forehead, neck, shoulders, hip and spine.
Team Kourageous Keith T-shirts, with his favorite number 8 in his favorite color yellow and the bear he picked out on the front, were sold all over Stow in recent months.
His family held a small wedding ceremony for Woodard and her partner, Keith’s stepfather Adam Woodard, in their home days before Keith's death so he could walk his mother down the aisle, something he wanted to do before he died.
At Stow City Council on Thursday night, Mayor James Costello and Mayor-Elect John Pribonic remembered Keith.
Pribonic read a poem called "Remember Me" in honor of Keith, which included the lines, "Don't remember me with sadness / Don't remember me with tears / Remember all the laughter / We shared throughout the years."
He thanked everyone who helped put together the Christmas parade for Keith, calling it a "Hallmark movie" that restored his faith in humanity and made him proud of Stow in the midst of terrible circumstances.
"This city came together like none other within two weeks, and we put on a parade for this young man and his family. We did many special things for the family and for this little boy, and it really shows our true colors. We are truly a city that we can all be very proud of," Pribonic said. "We did not do it, though, for ourselves. We did it for Keith and his family."
Groups recognized with a certificate of appreciation and a pin for their efforts in planning Keith's parade included the Rotary Club of Stow-Munroe Falls, Lakeview Intermediate School PTA, Stow-Munroe Falls High School choir, Stow cheerleaders, Stow Munroe-Falls Athletic Booster Club, Stow-Munroe Falls Transportation Department, Stow-Munroe Falls City School District and the city's fire and police departments.
"Kourageous Keith earned his angel wings and left a huge hole in a lot of hearts," Costello said. "Today, we want to honor those people and groups who banded together and brought joy into this young man's heart."
Keith would have turned 13 in December.
Donations to help Keith’s family with funeral and other expenses can be made online at gofundme.com/kouragous-keith.
Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills can be reached at 330-996-3334, email@example.com and @EmilyMills818.