Teammates honor friend five years after his death

 

             Michael DeLarco

 

Five years after the tragic loss of 10-year-old Michael DeLarco, both his family and community continue their strong support of one another.

An alumni basketball game was played at St. Hubert School in Hoffman Estates Saturday to honor the memory of the Schaumburg boy who was accidentally killed by an express commuter train in River Grove in February 2004.

Though there's been a Michael S. DeLarco Memorial Game played almost every year by the fifth-grade basketball team, this was the first time the members of DeLarco's own original team came back to play. They are now sophomores at various high schools.

Taylor Stacy, 16, attends Hoffman Estates High School. He said the memory of his old friend with whom he joined Boy Scouts and the basketball team has never faded.

"We all miss him," Stacy said. "Whenever I come into this gym, I think of him. I think he has a smile on his face, looking down on all his friends playing basketball. He loved basketball."

Their rivals were the team from St. Theresa School in Palatine who honored DeLarco five years ago by attending his memorial services in their basketball uniforms.

St. Hubert basketball coach Jim Murray said he was touched by the support of St. Theresa's players then and now.

"We've had a lot of battles with these guys over the years, but there was always a mutual respect between the two teams."

"They're our rivals on the court and our friends off the court," Stacy said.

In addition to the basketball players themselves, about 25 of DeLarco's other classmates from St. Hubert's Class of '07 came out to watch the game. Several of the girls organized an impromptu cheerleading squad at St. Hubert's end of the court.

DeLarco's parents, Michael and Linda DeLarco, attended with their daughters, Andreya and Faith. Andreya was only 8 years old when her brother died, but is now an eighth grader at St. Hubert. Faith was born on June 18, 2005, and is now attending preschool there.

Linda's brother, John Socha of Elk Grove Village, said the St. Hubert community has played a major part in the family's coping with their loss. Never have the DeLarcos felt isolated in their grief, he said.

Linda and Michael said the way their son has stayed in everyone's hearts has been incredibly meaningful to them.

"We are so honored that this is taking place today," Linda said. "It is such a beautiful tribute to the memory of our son, Michael."

The boy's father said he and everyone else will always remember his son with a permanent smile. Though not a star basketball player, he was appreciative of everything in his life and approached each endeavor with a lot of heart.

A basketball signed by every player in the game was presented to the DeLarcos.

The game was divided into two separately scored halves, with St. Theresa winning the first 31 to 8, but by the much-slimmer margin of 19 to 17 in the second.

 

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