Family members and his fourth-grade classmates celebrated the life and memory of Jaiden Dixon Monday, June 2, by releasing balloons that featured his picture and a simple message: "We love you Jaiden."
The event took place on the last day of 2013-14 school year at Monterey Elementary School, and eight days before what would have been Jaiden's 10th birthday.
Jaiden died Nov. 23, the day after he was shot at his home by a former boyfriend of his mother.
The assailant, Danny Thorton, 47, also shot a woman Nov. 22 in southeast Columbus before he was killed in a shootout with SWAT officers in a Walmart parking lot in northeast Columbus.
The family wanted to hold an event to celebrate Jaiden's life, even as they continue to struggle with the pain caused by his loss, said his oldest brother, Jarid Fitzpatrick, 18.
"We wanted to celebrate everything that made him special and his birthday, since it's coming up so soon," Jarid said. "It's still so hard accepting he's gone."
"The main thing is we don't want Jaiden to ever be forgotten," said his aunt, Shannon Magana.
"He was just the sweetest little boy," she said.
"What I miss the most is just seeing him and having him around," said Jarid, who graduated May 31 from Grove City High School.
"I really miss hearing his laugh," he said.
The June 2 ceremony was held at the end of the fourth-grade recess.
Students, their teachers and Jaiden's family gathered in a circle, each holding a balloon.
Most kept watching the balloons rise until they disappeared from sight.
The cloudy and rainy conditions eased just before the ceremony, with the sun even peeking out a bit.
Monterey Principal Brian Baker said it has been hard for the entire school to cope with the loss of someone who always displayed such a sunny disposition.
"I have a picture of him in the office and I think about him every day. He was such a nice kid," he said. "He loved baseball, and I had been a baseball player, so that was a connection we shared."
Jaiden always seemed to have a smile on his face, Baker said.