BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Annie Young, a third grade student at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School in Berkeley Heights, lived every day like it was an opportunity -- she embraced life everyday, said her dad, Paul Young.
Annabelle “Annie” Helen Young, died much too soon on Saturday, May 4, 2019 at Morristown Medical Center surrounded by her family and friends. She was 8 years old when she suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage caused by an undiscovered congenital condition.
Although she was only 8 years old when she passed away, she left a lasting impression on all she encountered and many who never met her. "Even though Annie is no longer with us physically, Annie's wonderful beautiful spirit will remain in our hearts and our lives today, tomorrow and always," said her grandmother Kathy Freeman. "Annie would want you to embrace life everyday - like she did," Freeman, a former teacher, told the hundreds of children that filled the large ballroom at Embassy Suites to Celebrate Annie's Life last Saturday.
Family, friends, neighbors, teammates, coaches, colleagues, teachers, school administrators, Girl Scout representatives, and community leaders lined up to pay their respect to Paul, Laura and Henry Young.
The guests left with impactful words of advise from Paul and Laura to make the most of family time.
Annie had an infectious smile, she had the ability to make people laugh -- and she loved to have fun. Paul said that Annie was best at being a kid. She was fiercely competitive and enjoyed everything she did. She loved to dance while no one was watching -- she danced while they were watching -- she would skip and sing. -- She excelled at being a kid.
When her softball coach, Bret Sayre, and his wife Carolyn came up with the button "Play for Annie" -- the mantra took off. It was difficult for the young team to play with such a big void, but the love and support they received from their opponents and teams throughout the state has helped them to continue and "Play for Annie." Anyone close to Annie knows that she would want the game to go on. Visit the "Forever Young" Facebook page to see the many tributes and thoughtful expressions of love. -- Teams from across the state have shown their support by placing the #19 sticker on their helmets and they #PlayforAnnie.
"You have brought out the 'sparkle' in a lot of people this week," said Jessica Nardi, Hughes School Principal, in a letter she read to Annie at the memorial celebration. She had listed the many tributes that were seen across Berkeley Heights and beyond: the luminary lined streets, hundreds of painted rocks delivered to the Young family that will be placed in a special backyard garden, a memorial bench, visits by therapy dogs to Hughes School, "Play for Annie" in lights on the town sign -- and even Madison Square Garden put Annie's name in lights. There was a double rainbow that appeared above her elemenary school the day of her funeral. "Annie, your time with us was brief, but unforgettable — the gift of your sparkle continues to shine in the world. You are loved and missed," said Nardi.
In Annie's short life, she made an impact on everyone she encountered, said Laura. "Annie was strong, positive -- she had a genuine sense of optimism -- fostered by friends, teachers and coaches that encouraged her along the way."
"Annie lived every day like it was an opportunity -- she embraced life everyday," said Paul. She was a professional kid. His advise is to "dance while no one is watching -- dance when people are watching. Don't be afraid, get up and do it." He said to sing everywhere -- and skip. "Laugh, and make others laugh. Be silly. Be kind. Be a good friend. -- Play really hard. -- Do things you enjoy. Be well rounded."
"Life is made up of a million little moments. -- Hold onto every single one of these moments -- they are important," he said.
Laura's advise to parents, "Take the day off -- go read to your kid's class, eat Zita's Ice Cream for dinner, paint your nails with glitter, drive with all the windows down and sing Justin Beiber at the top of your lungs, listen to Christmas songs in July, read Halloween books in April. -- Because when Annie and I did these things, they were some of the best moments of my life."
The Young family appreciates the outpouring of love and are in awe of the way Annie's life and her passing has affected so many people. "The reality of what has happened is truly awful but what is giving us moments of peace is the support we feel from all of our friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. Please know that your condolences, prayers, gifts, and kind words about Annie have made things easier for us to bear and we will be forever grateful," said Laura.