NEW TAMPA — Jordan Harris lettered in varsity soccer all four years at Freedom High and never backed down from a challenge on or off the field, relatives and friends said.
Harris, who graduated from Freedom in June, died last week, succumbing to a more than two year battle with brain cancer. He was 18.
Since then, friends, their parents and Freedom officials have rallied to support Harris’ parents, Philip and Kim, and their 15-year-old son, Dyllon, all of Temple Terrace.
More than 500 people attended a candlelight vigil and balloon release at the Freedom High stadium hours after Harris died on Oct. 16. The following day, a parent of one of Harris’ best friends launched a Facebook page to seek help to cover the his funeral and burial expenses.
“It’s like there has been a blessing around every corner,” Kim Harris said. “I don’t know where we would be today, if they hadn’t helped.”
Harris, who was considered an outstanding student and soccer player, planned to begin his freshman year at the University of Florida this fall.
“He had his student ID, but he never made it there,” Kim Harris said. “We went for the two-day orientation on May 20.”
That day will always hold good memories for the Harris family. Just before the trip to Gainesville, Harris learned his cancer had gone into remission again.
But the family’s excitement would give way to sadness June 2 when Harris was involved in a serious traffic accident on East Fowler Avenue near the University of South Florida.
He never fully recovered, Kim Harris said. The cancer returned.
“Everything started to go down from there,” she said.
Neena Pacholke, Harris’ girlfriend, said she will always remember his smile.
“No matter how hard times got, he would always smile,” said Pacholke, a University of South Florida basketball player.
At the candlelight vigil, Harris’ teammates on the soccer team gathered around as the head coach said the team would retire Harris’ No. 8 jersey, Principal David Sheppard said. They would allow Harris’ brother, a tenth-grader, to wear it, if he decided to tryout for the team.
Nikki Brown, who posted the funeral fund Facebook page, said her son, Kenyatta, and Harris had been the best of friends since they were students at Terrace Community Middle School.
“They were the wolf pack,” Brown said.
Brown, who also lives in Temple Terrace, said she is pleased but not surprised by how fast the community pulled together to support the Harris family. By Thursday, the fund had raised about $12,000.
Because of Harris’ athletic skills and academic abilities, “he always was the kid the others wanted to keep up with,” Brown said.
A celebration of life service will be held at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Cypress Point Community Church, 15820 Morris Bridge Road, Tampa.
Harris’ funeral is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church of Temple Terrace, 10002 N. 56th St. in Temple Terrace. Burial will follow at Sunset Memory Gardens, 11005 U.S. 301 in Thonotosassa.