People filled the parish Monday for the funeral mass of 13-year-old Roxie Pickrell, an Owensboro Middle School student who died Nov. 5 at Norton Children’s Hospital after being diagnosed with a brain tumor just weeks prior.
To all who attended the funeral, the community support for the Pickrell family was on display, from the women wearing red scarves in honor of Roxie’s red hair to the Owensboro Fire Department firemen, both active and retired, standing in dress uniform. Roxie’s story is one that illustrates the support and love of a community for a family who has lost two family members in less than a month.
Roxie’s grandfather, Gary Pickrell, owner of Gary’s Drive-In, died Oct. 11, the same day Roxie received her diagnosis.
Social media has been flooded with support for the Pickrell family. During that month, red t-shirts were designed with “Foxy Roxie,” a childhood nickname for the teen, which were sold at Owensboro Middle School. After her death, OMS students colored small foxes and displayed them in honor of their fellow student. And after Roxie’s funeral procession left the church, it passed by OMS, where students and staff lined the route to show the impact she made.
The Western Kentucky Regional Blood Center scheduled a blood drive on Nov. 7, calling the initiative, “Rise Up for Roxie” and brought in 123 blood donors.
“The event had been planned well ahead to provide support to her friends and family,” said Director of Donor Resources, Vicki Ellis. “Hosting the event gave folks in our community an opportunity to do something constructive in addition to the multitude of prayers being offered.”
Ellis said that the first registered donors were Cathy and Jason Pickrell, Roxie’s parents.
“They insisted Roxie would have wanted them to give in her memory,” Ellis said. “Roxie had received blood and the Pickrells knew this day would impact future recipients as well. In all, 369 blood products were donated, meaning in addition to comforting us in our grief, 369 patients would also receive life-saving products. Through smiles, tears, and prayers, we offered comfort to our community and life to those who depend upon the blood we collected. We will never forget Roxie Pickrell.”
Dylan Hammons, organizer of Project Rise, entered the Tunnel Hill 100, a 100-mile run in Illinois, on Nov. 9 and 10 in honor of Roxie. Hammons planned the run before Roxie’s death, raising money for medical expenses.
“I felt like the run needed to go on,” Hammons said when he learned of Roxie’s death. “The Pickrell family has been so strong and the way the community rallied together behind them was purely amazing.”
Hammons said that he had “a dark spot” early in the race, and he felt like quitting.
“But I felt the community and Roxie giving me a push,” Hammons said.
Hammons believes that something as pure and true as Roxie’s story allows the community to see that “we are all humans pulling in love in one direction.”
Roxie’s mother Cathy said that her family has felt the love and support since Roxie was first diagnosed and that it is what has helped them through the time they were at Norton and since Roxie’s death. Cathy said that she can already see miracles that Roxie is working.
“I do believe, as much as I hate to say, this is what she was here for,” Cathy said.
It was shared at her funeral that as a child Roxie would, very sincerely, say to her mother, “Mom, I am your angel sent to you from God.”
Cathy said that she, a journaler, would write what Roxie had said and also journal how it was haunting for a small child to say such things so matter-of-factly.
“They say there are angels among us,” Cathy said. “She was one of those. I don’t know why our family was chosen, but we feel blessed.”