Destin's Kohltan Ward remembered at celebration of life memorial service at Little League park
It was a time of remembering Sunday afternoon as more than 300 family and friends from the community came out for a celebration of life service for 11-year-old Kohltan Ward.
Kohltan was seriously injured while riding his bicycle on Oct. 17 when he was struck by a vehicle at the intersection of Kelly and Main Street in Destin. He died five days later on Oct. 22.
On Sunday, family, friends, teachers, coaches, teammates and others came out to Dalton Threadgill Little League Park in Destin to remember Kohltan. The ballpark, where Kohltan played ball for five years, was lined with photos of him throughout the years hanging out with friends, fishing and spending time with family.
Many in attendance signed a cross and a quilt that will be given to the Ward family.
Following a welcome from Pastor Allen Newton of Destin United Methodist Church, Pastor Eric Partin of Shoreline Church spoke.
"We are blessed to live in a community where people have rallied around the family. When one part of the community is hurting, the whole community hurts," Partin said.
The Sunday after the accident, more than 400 people showed up at the ballpark for a prayer vigil for Kohltan.
Although Partin said he had no answer as to why the accident happened to Kohltan, he told Caleb and Asher Ward and family that "God is with you" during this time and not to be afraid.
Baseball was a big part of Kohltan's life. Coach Matt Dalhman took the podium and spoke on behalf of the many coaches who had worked with Kohltan.
"This is a place where a lot of his best memories surely took place," Dalhman said, noting the Little League park
"This is the place where he met so many of what would become his best friends. This is a place where we had the honor and joy of coaching him," Dalhman said.
The coaches described him as a player with "a lot of heart" and one who liked to compete. One even said Kohltan had "swag."
"Baseball was a passion of Kohltan's," Dalhman said.
"He was a great teammate ... and he was a great friend," Dalhman and the other coaches said.
"Thank you for sharing Kohltan with us," Dalhman told the Wards. "Thank you for raising him to be a fine young man. He had and will continue to have a huge and lasting impact in our community."
Dalhman shared a scripture and then said, it's not our job to understand but to have faith.
One of Kohltan's young friends and teammates, Brooksie Chouinard, also spoke at the service and called him one of his "best friends." Brooksie talked of fun times playing video games and of Kohltan being a picky eater, once ordering a hotdog at a Mexican restaurant.
"He was an awesome friend," Brooksie said, noting he will miss him.
A few of Kohltan's teachers spoke next.
Fourth-grade teacher Anna Cox spoke of Kohltan's "impeccable manners" and the "joy" that he brought into the classroom.
Fifth-grade teacher Della Goodson described Kohltan as a "respectful" and "positive" person, and said he was consistent in and out of the classroom.
Merri Willis, a sixth-grade teacher at Destin Middle, spoke on behalf of other teachers who had Kohltan in their classrooms.
"He was a special young man," Willis said.
Willis said in her 40 years of teaching she has never come across a student with such good manners. And she described his smile as infectious.
After the teachers, Caleb Ward spoke about his son and thanked the community for their support.
"He was my pride and joy ... he was my main dude," Ward said.
"There will be no moving on, only moving forward," he said, noting Kohltan always will be remembered.
"Faith is what will get us through this dark time," he said.
Pastor Newton finished the service with three things to remember: You can trust God, God loves you, and God wants to lead and guide you.