Middle school remembers 8th grader who died following heart surgery

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email
McClay Powell (WRDW-TV)

McClay Powell (WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Monday, March 11, 2013

WARRENVILLE, S.C. (WRDW) -- One smiling face was missing from the halls of LBC Middle School Monday.

On Saturday, 13-year-old McClay Powell passed away from complications following heart surgery. On Monday, her middle school wore red in her honor.

Friends say her smile is the thing they will miss the most about McClay. They describe it as a smile that seemed to fill the halls of LBC middle school.

"She was just a great person all together," said eighth grader Nicole Tanton. "She would boost up your day if you were sad. Every time she walked in a room, she'd just light it up."

McClay's first day at LBC was hard to forget.

"She came to us in seventh grade and made an impact on her first day," said chorus teacher Joyce Culp.

"The first day she came here, she wore cat ears. She won us over. Everybody loved her," added eight grader Jace Bennefield.

That love was represented in red Monday with students and teachers honoring her.

"I can honestly say there hasn't been one person that has not cried today," Bennefield said. "It's been rough, but I guess we'll take it day by day."

A little more than two weeks ago McClay had heart surgery at Emory in Atlanta.

"The surgery to repair her heart valve went very well and things were looking very good and we were all excited," Culp said. "We were all preparing for her to come home, to come back to us."

But something went wrong.

"With all heart surgeries risk and complications are a part of it, and things didn't work out quite the way we planned," Culp said.

"All of a sudden we get a call that something went wrong, and then the next day she passed away," Tanton said.

A life that ended way too soon, but one filled with lessons these middle schoolers will never forget.

"Life's too short. live it to the fullest," Bennefield said. "Any day He could take any of us."

"You're not guaranteed tomorrow," added friend Erica Faircloth.

"And you really just need to be nice to everyone because you don't know how quick they can be taken away from you," Tanton said.

The day before McClay went to Atlanta for surgery, she was able to compete in the Miss LBC pageant. Her platform was raising money for the American Heart Association to educate everyone about heart problems in young people.

They are planning to hold a benefit in her honor in May, something they were planning with McClay before she passed away. It will raise money for the Heart Association and also for McClay's family's hospital bills.

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