Some Sioux Falls students paid tribute on Friday to a Minnesota teen who lost his battle with a rare form of bone cancer earlier this week. They gathered at Patrick Henry Middle School for a high-flying farewell.
Some Patrick Henry eighth graders formed a special bond with Internet sensation Zach Sobiech.
Zach gained worldwide acclaim with his song called Clouds that's climbed to number one this week on iTunes. Even though they've never met Zach in-person, they know he's still with them in spirit.
"Every day, we checked up on his blog and how he was doing. We got very happy when we found out he was good this day, or we were sad when he was doing bad that day. Now it's just kind of ended," Patrick Henry eighth grader Owen Alvine said.
The students exchanged well-wishes with Zach in his final weeks. It's the first time many of them have had to deal with the death of someone close.
"I can never imagine it happening to anyone I know. But, I'm sure it was the same thing with them, too," Patrick Henry eighth grader Isaac Goeman said.
Zach proved to be both a friend and a role model to the students, showing the entire world how to face life's toughest challenge with a song and a smile.
"He never held his head down and he was never really sad," Goeman said.
Many of these students were on a trip to Washington, DC when they learned about Zach's death. Being back home, with their classmates, even for just these few minutes, is a big help in the healing process.
"It's always easier to be with someone who also experienced the same thing you did," Alvine said.
The students' helium-filled balloons float toward the Clouds that Zack sang about.
"Make sure that he didn't die for no reason. Make sure that he's remembered and that he's still making a difference, even though he's not here," Alvine said.
The Patrick Henry students will also create a video tribute to Zach that they'll send to his mother.