Death of ELCS student saddens community

ELIZABETHTOWN The Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School community suffered a devastating loss last week. Nathaniel Nathan Hammond, 16, a popular sophomore at ELCS, succumbed to cystic fibrosis on April 25 at Boston Childrens Hospital in Boston. Hammond was the son of Dennis and Sandra Hammond of Lewis. Its a very tragic loss for us because he was such a memorable part of our school family, said ELCS Superintendent Gail Else. We are certainly saddened, and feel so bad for his family. The school spent much of last week mourning. On April 26, students and staff wore blue, the color of cystic fibrosis awareness. The school put up two wall-long posters in an upstairs hallway and encouraged students to write letters to Nathan. Remember Nathan. Remember the sickness and most of all remember what an amazing person he was, read one letter. Other messages conveyed memories of time spent together, and expressed a sense of loss. The banners were quickly filled by grieving students. Else said that the school made counselors available to students, and flew its flag at half-mass. She said the loss hit the school community which has about 350 students hard since everyone knew him. She added that the students support each other. A group of Hammonds friends gathered on May 1 to speak about their memories of him. Donnie Miller, Riley Diemand, Kaleigh Ratliff and Rebecca White all recalled Hammond as a funny, smart, uplifting person to know and a good person. Its been pretty hard I dont think its really hit us all yet, said Ratliff. Knowing well never see him again is a real shock, Diemand added. White said that her friend was the first person to try to cheer others up. He always looked on the bright side, White said. Ratliff said that teachers had been very supportive, offering students space to help them come to terms with their loss. Many students are wearing plastic bracelets with his name, date of birth and date of death. The ELCS sports teams will wear blue armbands for the rest of the spring season in Hammonds memory. Some of Hammonds friends worked to put together orange (Hammonds favorite color) ribbons with a note card encouraging people to remember Hammond, and express their gratitude for knowing him. Hammond was also active as a volunteer, providing more than 500 volunteer hours at Elizabethtown Community Hospital. Nathan has been a volunteer at ECH for the past several years. He has become a part of the hospital family, particularly in the lab, said Volunteer Coordinator and Hospital Relations Director Kerry Haley. He will be truly missed by everyone here. He was a special kid who has touched our hearts with his big smile, charming demeanor, his humor and his big heart. We have been honoring his memory by sharing stories and of how he made us all smile. The funeral was held on Monday, with many of the students from the school attending, along with family and friends. Friends of the family have set up the Nathan Hammond Memorial Fund. People interested in making a donation can send checks c/o Kerry Ratliff, 502 Fox Run Road, Elizabethtown, NY 12932. Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects the mucus in the lungs. The mucus builds up, and causes difficulty breathing.

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