Saluda High School mourns death of 9th grade Special Olympian student

Published: Apr. 2, 2021 at 6:28 PM EDT
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SALUDA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - The Special Olympics is a big day for many who live in Saluda. But this year, a hole is being felt throughout the community.

High school sports reign king, and support for all of the special Olympians out there is no different.

But Saluda High School lost one of its own just two days before yesterday’s ceremony. The high school is mourning Kener Perez-Perez, a 9th grader who passed away from complications from muscular dystrophy.

One of his teachers, Crystal Canady, says he was more than a student, he was family.

“Our entire town comes together for our athletes 4008, and our entire town comes together for our Special Olympics athletes as well,” she said.

Kener was one of many who typically competed, but he didn’t get to see the passing of the torch this year.

“Losing Kener is a tremendous loss, because here at Saluda, it’s more than just a school, we are truly a family,” said Canady.

But Kener’s presence is still felt here at Saluda High. Down the hallway, you’ll find his signature on the wall pledging to be kind and compassionate.

It’s a pledge his teachers say he lived up to.

“Kener was king of the one-line zinger, he had a great personality. Very comical side. He was always very respectful and friendly to everyone,” said Canady.

She says it was a tradition during the Special Olympics for students to take a victory lap together.

A friend of Kener’s says next year’s lap will be more meaningful than ever before.

“When I was talking about his passing, he said, ‘I’ll always remember taking that victory lap alongside Kener each year. And so, we just kind of consoled each other, and said from now on, he’ll still be taking that lap with Kener, just in a different way,” Canady said.

Because of COVID, the celebrations for the Special Olympics were held virtually and competitions were canceled.

But the district says they’re looking forward to being able to host next year’s under normal conditions.

In the meantime, they say staff and students are brainstorming a memorial for Kener to go somewhere in the school.

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