Communities in northeast South Dakota continue to rally around the family of a Frederick Area High School student who died more than a week ago.
The Brown County coroner is still waiting for lab results to determine a cause of death. The Brown County Sheriff's Office says evidence gathered in its investigation so far points to 15-year-old Sam Kenser accidentally shooting himself.
The high school freshman was a basketball player for Leola/Frederick. The team played in a district game Monday where blue shirts covered the stands at the Aberdeen Civic Arena. The shirts honored the high school freshman whose life was cut short.
"This last week has been frightening, in disbelief and we've been in shock and in great pain," Kelly Kenser said.
Greatly humbled as well, Kelly Kenser says, after an outpouring of love and support. Community members created a shirt after his 15-year-old son Sam died. They sold the shirts at Monday's game with proceeds going to the Kenser family.
Organizers have been selling them over the past week as well and had orders for hundreds before the district game even started. Support has come from towns that make up the Leola and Frederick Area school districts, but it's also stretched far beyond those boundaries.
"It's been tough but at the same time it's inspiring to see the kind of support that a kid like Sam had and for the family," Frederick Area superintendent Justin Downes said.
When playing Leola/Frederick last week, players from Ipswich wore the shirts during warm-ups. Northwestern made that same gesture Monday.
Kelly Kenser thanks law enforcement, other first responders and the supportive communities in general who've helped his family cope with losing a member he describes as a jokester, athletic and quick-witted.
"I want him to be remembered as a great kid. He looked out for others. He led others on his team and was a friend to all of them. That's how I want him to be remembered," Kenser said.
Sam's older brother is a senior on the Leola/Frederick basketball team. He swapped uniforms to wear his little brother's number last week and this week as fans of his team and others him.
The Kenser family has received support from outside northeast South Dakota as well. Kelly Kenser works for the FBI and was about to leave the country when his son died. First responders contacted him shortly before his plane left on its international flight, and the FBI shuttled him back to South Dakota so he could be at home with his family as quickly as possible.