No doubt at every school in the Carolinas on Friday, students cheered and screamed and went wild in anticipation of a Carolina Panthers Super Bowl victory. The kids unanimously agree: The Denver Broncos will be crushed into horsemeat.
But at one elementary school in Chester, the joy leaped through the roof. The kids sang songs about “Superman” and it was not just Cam Newton, but a superman named La’Darious Wylie, too.
A little girl, who is alive because of her brother, sang. The celebration where hundreds went berserk was even more special. The screams even louder. The songs even bolder. The dabs even dabbier.
The lunch ladies dabbed and the teachers dabbed and the custodians dabbed and every kid from every station in life dabbed – and it was pure magic.
The pep rally honored the Panthers and one student who fortunate to be there to be a part of it – and the 11-year-old Panthers fan who was not there because he saved the other.
Chester Park Center of Literacy Through Technology, known far and wide as the Colts, dedicated the day to both the Panthers and La’Darious Wylie. The fifth-grader died Oct. 28 after saving his 7-year-old sister, Sha’Vonta, as they waited at the bus stop near their home in Chester. La’Darious, a football fan and football player, pushed Sha’Vonta, a first-grader at the school, from the path of a speeding car but was hit himself. He died the next day.
The driver faces felony hit and run charges after failing to stop.
La’Darious never got to go to a planned visit to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte a few days later, when all his buddies on the Colt 101 Football Club at the school got to go. All the kids got pennants and great stuff that November day. All but La’Darious.
So at the end of Friday’s pep rally, the school lighted a candle and presented a Panthers pennant and more to La’Darious’ mom and sisters. The presentation was in a case with several pictures of La’Darious, given in a school gym down the corridor from “La’Darious Wylie Hall.”
It is a place where a hero once tread.
Principal Tammy Graham wanted to join the school’s pride in La’Darious and its pride in the Panthers into one joyous moment.
“We can always remember him in our hearts,” she told the assembled students and teachers. “ ‘Keep Pounding’ means never quit – no matter what.”
La’Darious has been honored by the General Assembly for his courage. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., spoke about La’Darious’ selfless courage on the floor of the Senate chamber.
And on Friday, he had his place with his teammates on the football team as part of an entire school cheering for the Panthers to win Sunday.
The Colts at Chester Park Center of Literacy Through Technology did a special cheer. They cheered how “C” is for courage. “O” is for ownership. “L” is for leadership. And “T” is for teamwork.
La’Darious Wylie personified all those words and more.
The team of Colt 101 players all said La’Darious was a great teammate. The teachers spoke of his heroism. They tried not to cry, and a few failed.
Liz McCrorey, La’Darious’ mother, was overwhelmed by the reception.
“I am so proud of my son and so proud of all these kids and this school to do this,” she said.
Front and center were La’Darious two younger sisters, both in the first grade. Miheaven, 6, who proudly sang with her class, was asked about her brother.
“He loved football,” she said.
She wore a T-shirt with her brother’s picture on the front.
Sha’Vonta sang a Panthers cheer song with her class, smiling the whole time.
“My brother saved me,” Sha’Vonta said. “He would say, ‘Go Panthers!’ I love him.”
It was clear on Friday that the whole school loves their hero, too.
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065