Balloons released in honor of Columbia boy who lost life to cancer
COLUMBIA - Five hundred red balloons floated into the sky Friday as hundreds of community members celebrated the life of a young boy who lost his life to cancer.
In October, doctors diagnosed Bryson Pruitt-Smith, then 4-years-old, with DIPG brain cancer. His fight against the inoperable brain tumor was documented on a Facebook page followed by thousands of people around Missouri, and the world. Pruitt-Smith, 5, died Tuesday night.
"Following on Facebook was truly an inspiration," Facebook follower Joyce Chastain said. "It brought the community together. It's just amazing. It's all of us here. It's black, white, young old. They really have done a lot for the community."
Hundreds of people, including Chastain, attended a balloon release Friday at Cosmo-Bethel Park in memory of Bryson. "Team Bryson" committee members passed out red balloons, Bryson's favorite color, to be released in unison at 8 p.m.
Chastain is just one of the more than 26,000 people who follow the "Prayers for Bryson" Facebook page. Throughout the nine-month fight, family and friends of Bryson posted photos, videos and updates on his condition. Family friend, and "Team Bryson" organizer, Brittany Frierson said the community embraced the content in ways she never expected.
"It goes from several thousand Likes, to several thousand Comments to hundreds of Shares," Frierson said. "That's big."
She said people have approached her, explaining how they felt they knew the Bruno Mars-loving boy even if their only interaction with the family had been over social media.
"It's unreal how the community alone in Columbia has come together to follow his story, who love and care for him like they know him." Frierson said.
The "Team Bryson" group has shipped its superman-inspired T-shirts, sporting a "B" for Bryson in its middle, as far away as Honolulu and the United Kingdom.
"He's brought thousands of people around the world together with his story. He's touched lives in many ways none of us knew he was going to," Frierson said.
The post that broke the news of Pruitt-Smith's passing received more than 7,000 likes, 2,000 shares and nearly 2,000 comments.
The "Team Bryson" group plans to continue helping sick pediatric patients and their families combat the heavy financial burden cancer brings. An upcoming fundraiser organized by the group will cover remaining funeral costs, but then will go towards supporting new families.
A funeral for Bryson is scheduled for Sunday at The Crossing in Columbia at 2 p.m.