ST. PARIS – Graham’s buildings opened Monday with special staff meetings and grief centers established to manage counseling supports for those who needed it. The district’s Crisis Response Team continues to work with the families affected as they plan to reflect and celebrate the life of Sara Hess, the 10th grade student lost in a tragic car accident late Friday night.
Sara Hess was a sophomore who was heavily involved in volleyball, 4-H, HOSA and band.
“This young lady was the All-American student we all wish we had the opportunity to know,” said Principal Ryan Rismiller. “The outpouring of love and support from students, staff and community members Saturday evening reinforced what a special person we have lost, but will never lose in spirit.”
Rismiller, Superintendent Kirk Koennecke and several students and staff members spent time Saturday morning at the hospital with the Wier family.
After the shocking news of the event, the high school opened its doors Saturday for a gathering from noon to 2 p.m. Snacks, therapeutic materials, and counseling were provided to those who gathered. Graham’s community held a candlelight vigil Saturday evening. Koennecke gave thanks to his students, staff and the first responders who served the community, then read a message from the family of Gabe Wier, the 11th Ggrade student recovering from the crash at the Miami Valley Hospital, thanking the community for their well wishes.
Pastor Chuck Glover of the Westville United Methodist Church provided opening reflection and prayers. The Hess family and well over 200 community supporters gathered and took part in a silent passing of the light ceremony to honor the life of Sara Hess. Don Burley presented the passing of the light ceremony, beginning with teacher Cheryl Hess, Graham and Ohio Hi-Point staff member and mother of Sara. Pastor Dave Kepple of the Saint Paris United Methodist Church provided closing prayers.
The building was opened again on Sunday 1-3 p.m. as members of the GHS volleyball team took time to reflect together and celebrate their lost teammate with signs and messages. The Wier family provided updates on Gabe’s improving condition Sunday evening:
“Gabe successfully underwent surgery and is now focused on beginning the healing process. The surgeon placed a plate in his shoulder to repair the broken clavicle and inserted a screw in his hip. Gabe suffers from a fractured C4 vertebrae and will continue to wear a neck brace for the next 3-8 weeks. The doctors anticipate a full recovery given time and a lot of physical therapy. Gabe’s spirit remains strong and his faith and love for Christ has carried him over these last few days. The family and Gabe are humbled by the outpouring of love and support from his classmates as well as the community. Gabe passionately requests that everyone surround the Hess family with love and prayer during this very difficult time.”
This week the district will provide its high school gymnasium and facilities on Thursday, Nov. 9, for visitation hours for the Hess family. Friday the district’s schools will be closed in observance of the funeral, which will be held at the Westville United Methodist Church.
Schools will operate on regular bell schedule during Thursday. Visitation for family only will commence at 2 p.m., followed by Community Hours from 3 to 7 p.m. A Prayer Service will be held at 7 p.m. All high school athletic and activity events in the evening have been cancelled or moved for Thursday. The Fall Sports Banquet will be rescheduled. Parking assistance will be available for community members arriving at the north end of the high school at the gymnasium entrance.
On Friday, Nov. 10, a bus run will be made available to the funeral service for students who wish to park at GHS. Students need to arrive by 9 a.m. The buses will depart at 9:30 a.m. to the Westville United Methodist Church for the funeral service. The buses will return to the high school immediately following the service around 11:15 a.m.