By Mary O’KEEFE
Tonight, Thursday, at 7 p.m. a memorial service will be held for Tyler Sikora, a 15-year-old Rosemont Middle School student who collapsed on a Crescenta Valley High School basketball court on May 20. He had a history of a heart condition. The service will be held at United Methodist Church, 2700 Montrose Ave.
“He was so kind.” “He had the greatest smile.” “The most amazing eyes.” “He was my friend.” “My best friend.” “Our buddy.” “He was my son.”
These were some of the quiet testimonies that floated from a crowd of about 200 at a candlelight vigil at the high school on Friday in honor of Tyler.
“He loved playing basketball with his brother Devon and his friends,” said Tim, Tyler’s father.
“He had just turned to his brother and said, ‘I love you Devon and I love being out here playing with your friends.’ He then turned around and collapsed,” Colleen, Tyler’s mom, said.
Devon and his friends called 911 and held Tyler’s head and waited for help.
“They did everything they were supposed to do,” said CVHS Principal Linda Evans.
But it was too late. Tyler’s parents confirmed that the cause of death was due to his heart condition.
“We found out that Tyler had a heart condition when he was 7 months old,” said Tim.
For 15 years his parents have had a cautious eye on their son who was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It is a condition when the heart muscle becomes thick which makes it harder for blood to leave the heart, forcing the muscle to work harder to pump blood.
When Tyler was younger the doctors were very concerned about his condition. Then his family and friends prayed together and at the next check up the doctors saw improvement.
“I call it a miracle,” Tim said.
From that point Tyler’s only true restriction was no competitive sports. But that didn’t stop him from being an active fan, a mascot and an assistant coach.
“When Tyler wanted to do something he did it,” Colleen said.
To say Tyler was from a sports family is an understatement. His father coached soccer, his uncle was a NASCAR fan, his brother Devon is a soccer, baseball, track and football player and the entire family are Lakers fans. Tyler may not have played sports but that didn’t mean he wasn’t a team member.
“I coached soccer. At the beginning of the season I would introduce Tyler to the team. I would tell them he couldn’t play but if it was OK with them, he would be the mascot,” Tim said.
Once Tyler took on a team he saw it through, not missing any practices. He was dedicated to his team and teammates and to the sport, Tim said.
“He loved life. He was so full of kindness and compassion,” Colleen added.
Tyler was not one who loved the academics of school but had promised his parents he would do better and was excited about going to high school.
“He never really liked school. One day when I was [volunteering] in his kindergarten classroom I couldn’t find him. I looked and found him under one of the tables. He said ‘Shh. I am hiding here until school is over,’” Colleen remembered with a smile.
Tyler had a way of turning an argument into an agreement between friends and with his parents.
“He really should have been a lawyer. He could get people to agree with him on anything,” Colleen said.
His family and friends were a constant source of support but his idol was his older brother. Like most brothers there were times when they fought but it was more teasing than fighting, his parents said.
“I really have no words to express [the loss]. He was my brother. He was everything I was not,” Devon said.
At the vigil it was obvious that Tyler was Devon’s sidekick. Everyone who knew Devon knew Tyler. He became not just his brother but also the team’s little brother. One boy said he was going to put Tyler’s initials on his basketball shoes so every time he stepped onto the court it was to honor his memory. Others said they felt the reason Devon played so hard at every sport he went out for was because he was playing not just for himself but for Tyler, too.
“I never knew that until I heard it that night,” Tim said. “I asked Devon and he said that it was true. He knew his brother could never play sports so he did for both of them. You know you never know these things.”
“You always think that your kids are the best and perfect but then to hear all those people at the vigil talk about Tyler. I just kept thinking how he touched so many lives,” Colleen added.
The idea for Friday night’s vigil came from CVHS students who knew Tyler. They went to Principal Linda Evans and said they wanted to do something.
“The students needed a way to mourn,” Evans said.
Evans called the family and told them of the event.
“We had to come. How could we not?” Tim said.
The community support has been overwhelming, he added.
“Our kids spend summers in San Diego with my in-laws. They love it and wanted to move there,” Tim said. “My in-laws were at the vigil and saw the community support. They said ‘We get it. [Now] we know why you love this community.’”
“I didn’t realize what a close knit community this was. There has been such an outpouring of love,” said Tyler’s aunt Ellen Jaeggi.
His family is taking comfort in how Tyler lived life to the fullest.
“He was always happy. His heart was so full of joy and love,” Jaeggi said.
There has been a constant stream of family and community support at the Sikora’s home but the pain of a lost child is difficult to comfort.
“I don’t know how to move on. The loss of a child is so great,” Colleen said.
The family is grateful for their community and all who have supported them during this mournful time.
“I just want to remind parents to hug their children, tell them how much they love them. Life can be so short. Just love your kids,” Colleen added.
In lieu of flowers the family has requested donations be sent to a fund established in Tyler’s memory at Citibank, 2621 Foothill Blvd., La Crescenta.