Mohonasen students are mourning the death of Tyler DeMarco, a cancer-stricken classmate who inspired his Little League team to an unlikely come-from-behind victory last summer.
District officials released a letter to parents about Tyler succumbing to the disease Tuesday morning at his home. The youth, who was immensely popular among his seventh-grade classmates, had been battling pediatric cancer for nearly five years.
“We are profoundly saddened by his death,” said Draper Middle School Principal Debra Male in her letter to parents. “Tyler has left an indelible mark of love with all of us.”
DeMarco’s Little League coaches praised him for displaying remarkable resolve during his battle with cancer. At times, he would undergo chemotherapy in the morning, only to return to the field for practice by evening.
At the start of the 2009 season, the league decided to honor Tyler by displaying a banner with his name on it on the center field fence. Its message was simple: Hurry home, Tyler, Rotterdam needs you.
The banner became a rallying point for the league throughout the season. Before taking the field each game, the players would kneel down beside it and say a simple prayer for the friend who demonstrated how to battle through adversity.
Tyler’s banner traveled with the team to their championship tournament in Rochester and was on display in their dugout during their final game. The team of 9- and 10-year-old players used their sick former teammate as inspiration to overcome a three-run deficit in the final inning, coming back to win by a score of 13-9.
After the victory, many of the players credited the inspiration they gleaned from Tyler for pushing them to victory. He later celebrated the victory with the squad during a trip to the Great Escape in a stretch Hummer.
Mohonasen officials informed students of Tyler’s death on Tuesday afternoon and warned parents to be alert about the impact it may have on district youth. Grief counselors are being provided by the district upon request, according to the letter.