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St. Paul Park gathers to honor life of Kendrick Jordan Jr.

More than 100 people gave their farewells to Kendrick Jordan Jr., 5, by sending more than 50 colored balloons into the skies above his St. Paul Park elementary school on July 19, 2017. Youssef Rddad / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 4
A poster of Kendrick Jordan Jr., hung outside of Pullman Elementary School in St. Paul Park. Youssef Rddad / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 4
Kai Lindsay, 6, drew a picture of himself with his best friend Kendrick Jordan Jr. Lindsay's mother, Laura, said the two were inseparable at school. Youssef Rddad / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 4
Pullman Elementary students gathered July 19, 2017 to celebrate the life of their classmate Kendrick Jordan Jr., who died earlier this month at a Woodbury lake. Youssef Rddad / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 4

Those who knew Kendrick Jordan Jr. say they'll never forget his energy and bright smile.

The rising St. Paul Park first-grader died July 8 while swimming at Carver Lake in Woodbury. He was five years old.

On July 19, at least 100 community members, teachers, city leaders and students gathered at Pullman Elementary School in St. Paul Park to give their farewell to Jordan.

Writing on heart-shaped pieces of construction paper, students and teachers wrote their thoughts and memories of Jordan, fixing the notes to colored balloons and releasing them into the skies above the school.

Kai Lindsay, 6, drew a picture of himself standing next to Jordan. He wrote "Kendrick I love you," with a backward D in red color crayons.

Lindsay's mother, Laura, said the two were inseparable at school. When her son came home, he'd always talk about Jordan, she said. He even wrote about him for a class assignment about a best friend.

The past few weeks have been tough, Laura Lindsay said.

"Sometimes he keeps to himself, and other days, he's like a normal kid," she said. "It's kind of hard for him to understand something like this."

Amanda Brinkman, Jordan's kindergarten teacher said teachers and parents who organized the event hoped to bring closure to Jordan's family and classmates. She said she'll always remember Jordan's big smile, his dimples and the endless energy he brought to her class every day.

State and city leaders, as well as members from the local fire and police department, also attended the event.

Jordan's parents said they were grateful for the large turnout and community's support for their loss over the past few weeks.

"It feels like a piece of you is missing, but with the support that we've been getting, people are uplifting us," said Kendrick Jordan, Sr. "It's like if we're hurt, they're hurt, and we see that."

He said the family moved to St. Paul Park from the Camden neighborhood on Minneapolis' North Side when Jordan was in daycare. He hoped the better schools and community would lead to better opportunities for him.

"He was so loving and nice, his smile was so bright. We'll all miss it," said Anita Miller, Jordan Jr.'s mother. "We all miss it a lot."

Miller said she's still without answers about what happened to her son that Saturday afternoon.

A family friend had brought Jordan along with a group of other kids to Carver Lake Beach in Woodbury to go swimming. Miller said she sent her son off with a life jacket that she had insisted he wore.

When word spread throughout the beach that a child had gone missing, beach-goers rushed to the water, forming a human chain in hopes of finding Jordan.

Patrick Hedican of St. Paul located Jordan after diving multiple times into deep water about 30 to 40 feet from the shoreline, according to the Pioneer Press.

Miller said doctors are still unsure how long her son was underwater when she arrived at Region's Hospital.

She was also unaware the beach had no active lifeguard.

Woodbury eliminated lifeguards at the popular beach in 2009 to cut down on costs and end the $2 admission fee. Other cities across the metro have also made similar cuts in the past decade.

"It's not even that much money. People go to Lake Elmo all the time, and it's only $5," Miller said. "It's just that little bit more for having lifeguards."

She added that she hopes her son's death leads to more awareness about water safety. Miller said she's also considered starting a program that distributes life jackets in swimming areas.

Kendrick Jordan Jr. leaves behind his mother and father and two siblings.

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