ELKHART — It would have been forgivable if the dark sky and brisk breeze over Woodland Elementary had cast a melancholy over the vigil for 12-year-old Da'Jeianna Smith.
But the ceremony, held Monday night on the field where she loved playing softball, was more a celebration of her life than of the tragic accident that took it.
Da'Jeianna was hit by a truck May 16 on C.R. 108 in northwestern Elkhart. She died a day later.
A small cross and framed photograph of Da'Jeianna were laid at first base, marking the position she played in the field, while friends and family came to pay their respects.
After a reading of Psalm 23 at the pitcher's mound, her Woodland Rockets teammates gathered at home plate and jogged to first base to each place a pink carnation on the base. They then completed a lap around the bases, in a nod to Da'Jeianna.
“They wanted to send her a home run,” explained Penelope Paul, a mother of one of the Rockets and an organizer of the event.
A group then gathered once more near the center of the diamond, where they led the rest of the assembly in releasing balloons into the sky, some holding special notes attached for Da'Jeianna.
The Rockets, having just come back from a game, did not have time to write messages. Instead, they dedicated their performance that day to their friend, a 10-1 victory over Hawthorne Elementary School.
“She was always really nice to everybody,” Bridget Kehr, 12, said of her teammate.
For their upcoming game on Thursday, the team will wear special shirts that have Da' Jeianna's initials and number 27 on the sleeve.
“She was a sweetie,” Paul said. “The kids just loved her to death.”