Clayton community remembers teen lost to gun violence

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CLAYTON — Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday in the Clayton High School football stadium to celebrate the life of Trevor VanDyke.

The CHS graduate had died the week before in a shooting in Durham, where he was a freshman football player at N.C. Central University.

Former teammates, coaches, friends and mentors sat in the rain as they paid their respects.

“I know this has been a time of mourning for the family, and it’s also been a time of mourning for the Clayton Comets family over the course of the last week,” said Bennett Jones, the Clayton High principal. “It was my pleasure to know Trevor for the last couple of years. We had some great conversations one on one.”

Jones said VanDyke had worked hard get to where he was. “We had a lot of celebrations and a lot of obstacles that Trevor had overcome in his life,” he said. “I know how proud he was last spring when he was signing that opportunity to go to North Carolina Central. I will never forget the smile on his face on graduation day. Those are the memories that sustain me through times like this.”

VanDyke’s uncle, Adrian Lemons, thanked everyone for coming out. “It’s an honor to know that Trevor impacted this community the way he did in the short period of time that he was on this earth,” he said.

Lemons said the family was humbled by the memorial service. “It’s amazing that this school, this community is willing to do that and honor his name,” Lemons said. “I’m blown away. We weren’t expecting this.”

VanDyke’s sister, Raven, encouraged everyone to love others and to follow their dreams. “Trevor was my brother, Trevor was my friend, and I miss him,” she said. “I honestly know that we must let his legacy carry on through us each and every day. We can’t just say it. Actions speak louder than words. When life gets rough, you take those lemons and you make lemonade.”

Lemons said his nephew was a gifted football player and a loving person who put family first. “Trevor was a phenomenal athlete, and he was really good at intercepting the ball,” Lemons said. “Trevor was a hard worker, and he was a rock for our family. Trevor made a lot of sacrifices in his life to actually get to where he was here.”

Lemons said he wanted to turn VanDyke’s death into something positive. “I believe Trevor was created for this purpose,” he said. “Even though we’re mad, we’re angry, we’re upset, we can’t act out of anger, we’ve got to act out of love. Trevor was known for love.”

“I don’t want anybody to do anything that’s senseless,” Lemons said. “I don’t want nobody else to get hurt. I don’t want nobody else to lose a loved one. What I do want is to be able to gain something out of this situation.”

Darren “Pops” Banks, an assistant football coach at Clayton, called on society to change a culture that allows young people to die by gun violence. “I know you want to do something,” he said. “You could go tweet, you could go get on Facebook and do this for Trevor. You guys are going to have to really look in the mirror and to make some changes. If you want to honor Trevor, things are going to have to change.”

Banks said VanDyke’s death had changed his life. “I’m going to coach a little different,” he said. “I’m going to approach kids a little different. I’m going to tell every kid that I coach, every student that I run into, about Trevor VanDyke. He is definitely moving us all in the right direction.”

Banks said VanDyke lit up a room, and when someone had a bad day, he could make it better. “Trevor was always joking,” he said. “If you were in a bad mood, he would pick you up.”

Banks said he wanted to celebrate VanDyke’s legacy. “My anger kind of moved to celebrating and making Trevor’s memory last,” he said. “I probably laugh and smile a few times throughout the day instead of crying like I was before. We are going to keep Trevor’s memory going.”