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Teaming up to remember a friend

Kaleigh Faeh's death Nov. 20 stunned her classmates at Rosemount Middle School, but perhaps none more than Madi Van Sickle.

Van Sickle, an eighth grader at RMS, had known Kaleigh since they were in second grade. They'd been best friends since sixth grade. According to Van Sickle, they were two of a kind.

"We're both goofballs, and we really understood each other," Van Sickle said. "She was the person that I trusted to tell everything to, and I could trust she wouldn't tell anyone. Even if we got into small fights, she wouldn't tell anyone."

Van Sickle remembers her friend as someone who liked to make sure everyone was in a good mood. Who made other people happy just by being around.

With her friend gone, the result of a Group A Strep infection that came on in early November and quickly got worse, Van Sickle didn't quite know what to do with herself.

Tiffany Rose didn't know Kaleigh at all, but she knew Van Sickle. Van Sickle was in Rose's homeroom class last year, and she's a softball player. Rose will take over this year as varsity softball coach at RHS. When Rose heard from some of her softball players that Van Sickle was struggling, she figured she'd see what she could do.

The pair met almost daily in Rose's classroom to figure out a way to honor Kaleigh. Now, teacher and student hope the result of their work will help people remember Kaeligh for years to come.

Earlier this week Rose and Van Sickle started pre-selling t-shirts in Kaleigh's memory. They plan to have the t-shirts ready in time for students to wear them on Dec. 20, one month after Kaleigh's death. Money they raise from the sale will go to Kaleigh's family to create a memorial.

Van Sickle was happy to have something to do.

"I thought it was a great idea, because I was still kind of trying to cope with the whole situation," she said. "People are making bracelets, and showing how much they care was helping."

The t-shirts, which Rose and Van Sickle designed together, read "Team Kaleigh" on the front and have an image of ballet slippers -- a fitting symbol for a girl who loved to dance. On the back they read, "She auditioned for heaven and got the part," a quote used by another of Kaleigh's friends at her funeral.

"That quote meant a lot to me," Van Sickle said.

Rose expects the shirts, which will come in lime green or orange, Kaleigh's favorite colors, to be popular. There were 383 students who missed school to attend their classmate's funeral.

"It was very clear in the couple of days I spent with the eighth grade students that she was a great kid and had touched these kids' lives," Rose said. "It was very somber at school, and teachers were affected, and students. It shows you how special she was.... Her wake was five hours of kids lined up at the door.

"It's important we celebrate her and we don't forget."

Van Sickle doesn't expect to ever forget her best friend. She's spent a lot of time with Kaleigh's family in recent weeks. She hopes she's helped them deal with the loss of their daughter, and she knows they've helped her come to terms with the loss of her friend. Now, she's looking forward to seeing what she can do to help everyone remember.

"I'm just kind of excited to see the turnout of how many people buy the shirts and how much money we collect," Van Sickle said. "I think it's going to be cool."