Millers Creek Elementary students let go of tragic losses with balloon release

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MILLERS CREEK, N.C. — For Millers Creek Elementary School students, this year’s last day of school had a special meaning.

Millers Creek Elementary is one of the largest in the state. For them, this year proved that with a lot of students, come a lot of tragedies.

Staff members organized the release of hundreds of balloons, about a half hour before the close of the school year.

“The real meaning of that was to, just to let go of all the stuff that’s happened throughout this year,” said Student Body Vice President Kelsie Huffman.

Staff members say one student lost both parents in a murder/suicide. Others have parents battling cancer. One parent lost his battle. But that parent meant so much to the school community.

“He, just, was loved by so many people because he was just such a good man,” said Maria Lopez, of her father, Marcus.

Marcus Lopez was known by the school staff as a “Watchdog.” He was a volunteer parent who patrolled the halls and visited with students. Staff members said even while he was sick, he would regularly check the school entrances three separate times to make sure they were secure. Marcus passed away May 26.

“There’s just an empty space in my family now,” said Maria.

But the Millers Creek community has stepped in to fill the void. Maria says, although many people don’t know what to say to her, it helps to know that they are there for support.

Even though the school year is over, community members say releasing the balloons is a reminder that they will still be there for one another.