Tribute to Chesterfield teen who lost battle with cancer

By Melissa Correa - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan – email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - For five months Chesterfield students watched their classmate fight a losing battle against cancer.  Two weeks ago, Matoaca High School junior, Justin Yancey died.

Tuesday, hundreds of teens -- part of "Team Justin" -- honored their classmate.

Under a clear blue sky, Matoaca High School students remembered Justin Yancey, a 16-year-old who recently lost his battle with Leukemia.

Huddled together.  Fighting back tears.  Clinching bright orange balloons.  Four hundred and sixty students stood in silence for Justin.

"All of the things that's he's not going to get to experience," explained senior Tyler Greever, "that's all I could think about in that moment of time."

As balloons dotted the sky over Matoaca high, the hearts of freezing teens were warmed. They lost a classmate two weeks ago.

"And we did the balloons because Justin's up there right now and we feel like our messages," said organizer Nolan Overby, "when we released these balloons, are going to go straight to him."

Mom Kathleen Yancey, there for the tribute to her son, wore his class ring that was delivered after he lost his five-month battle with leukemia.

"Justin had designed it and we had to have it custom-made because he wanted the Leukemia awareness ribbon," explained Kathleen Yancey as he showed us his 2013 class ring.

Justin, a junior, was too sick to attend classes this semester.  That didn't stop the Matoaca Warriors from going "Team Justin."  Orange bracelets -- a color representing leukemia -- were sold.  Today hundreds now wear a band of orange.

"He told me -- it was just one of the greatest things he ever said -- 'I feel like a rock star,'" remembered Kathleen Yancey.  "And he was. He was to me, and he was to all of these kids."

Jeremy Jones said Justin wasn't a friend.  He was a brother.  Tuesday he traded his time with Justin for memories.

"The smile that he had," Jones said.  "Because nobody else had a smile like him."

Nolan Overby promises never to forget,  "I'm going to make sure that I'm going to live my day to the fullest. Every single day. Every moment."

Between the balloon release and the team Justin bracelets, students have raised $1,000 that will go to Project ASK, a support group for children with cancer at VCU Medical Center.