By Alex Christodoulides
A new tree now grows in Queens, dedicated Sunday at Bayside's Sacred Heart School by friends and family in memory of Kaitlyn Grogan, the Bayside soccer star killed in Florida in February.
Grogan's family sprinkled the Japanese snowbell tree three times each with holy water as they and dozens of friends recited prayers with Monsignor Vincent Aukie and the Rev. Theodore Hevi from Sacred Heart Church.
Grogan, a 2004 alumna of the school, was a senior soccer star at Archbishop Molloy HS and a 2007 TimesLedger CHSAA All-Queens girls' soccer second team selection. Her wide circle of friends came from her involvement in sports and community activities, and they have been a source of support for the Grogan family.
Five months after Grogan was struck by a car and killed crossing Tampa's busy Dale Mabry Highway while on a trip with her club soccer team, her family joined Kaitlyn's classmates from Sacred Heart and Molloy, soccer teammates and longtime friends to bless the tree in her memory.
Caitlyn Kakavas, Kaitlyn's best friend, said she was glad for the big turnout.
"She always had a smile. She had such a passion for sports and all of her teammates," Kakavas said of the qualities that drew people to Kaitlyn Grogan. "She had so much confidence in her teammates, and she was always there for them."
But Kakavas still misses the friend who had been by her side since the first grade.
"I'd rather her be here than have a mass for her," she said sadly.
"She always went the extra amount for everybody else," said Grogan's mother, who said she could not thank the community enough for the well-wishes during such a difficult time.
"There have been so many people, right from the beginning, who've done so much — Molloy, this church, the parish, the soccer community," she said.
But the tree is something that family and friends can visit, which made the dedication special.
"The tree symbolizes Kaitlyn. Every flower that blooms on it symbolizes her love that she shared with us," said Virginia Castillo, who spoke at the dedication ceremony and whose son was Grogan's classmate.
"It's a place where the kids can go to reflect," said Ro Randazzo, who helped Castillo and the Grogans organize the ceremony.
Castillo and the church worked with Bayside's Keil Brothers Nursery to plant the Japanese snowbell tree near Kaitlyn Grogan's alma mater.
Her family started a scholarship fund in Kaitlyn's name after her wake in February and awarded the first four-year, $1,500 scholarship this spring to Julia Rosen, now a graduate of Sacred Heart.
The scholarship fund, which now totals about $45,000, has derived entirely from money raised at a walkathon and by sales of bracelets and patches bearing Kaitlyn Grogan's name and jersey number, 33, said her father, Terrence Grogan.
Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.