Community rallies around family after boy collapses, dies while playing basketball

Troy Byrd died doing what he loved — playing basketball — but that doesn’t make grieving his loss any easier for his family.

The Urbana sixth grader collapsed while he was playing basketball at the Champaign Family YMCA on Saturday.

“He shouldn’t have died so young,” Troy’s cousin, Lanicia Cunningham said through tears. “This is such a hurtful feeling to not be able to say ‘goodbye’ or ‘I love you’ to someone that you love.”

Cunningham said Troy had played a basketball game earlier in the day before going to the YMCA to shoot around with his two cousins.

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Troy collapsed on the court, but emergency personnel weren’t able to restart his heart. He was pronounced dead at Mercy Health Urbana Hospital on Saturday evening.

Champaign County Coroner Dr. Joshua Richards said Troy’s body was taken to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office for an autopsy and toxicology tests. As of Monday evening, no specific cause had been named in Troy’s death.

Since his passing, the Urbana community — and far beyond — have been working to make sure Troy is not forgotten.

West Liberty-Salem and Bellefontaine sixth graders dedicated their game to Troy and Urbana over the weekend. The Northridge Middle School sixth grade boys team will wear decals honoring the boy on their jerseys for the rest of the season.

Fourth grade students at Urbana Elementary spent Monday making signs honoring Troy to hang in the school’s hallways.

Troy’s own teammates even celebrated his birthday in his honor. Troy passed away one day before he would’ve turned 12.

“Thank you to everybody — all the love, the support — everybody from Springfield to Cleveland,” Cunningham said. “That baby will never know how much so many people loved him.”

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Urbana City Schools did have classes on Monday, but Superintendent Charles Thiel said counselors were on hand for students and staff. He said in the Urbana district, every student’s absence is felt.

“For our younger students who have not necessarily experienced anything like that (it) can be a real challenge — the teammates, the classmates — when that student was just there yesterday or the day before and now they’re no longer with us,” Thiel said.

The Champaign Family YMCA issued a statement over the weekend saying, “We are saddened at this loss because Troy was a part of our Y family. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family.”

Cunningham said she hopes Troy’s death sends two messages — one, to her family to grow closer together and another to parents who may be pushing their kids too hard on the playing field, to lay off.

Cunningham said the family is looking at Friday for the date of Troy’s funeral services, but the location and time have yet to be determined.

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