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September 22, 2013

Celebrating the memory of Braylee Henry and Alyssa Wiles

DUNCAN — Pain and sadness linger over the tragic slayings of 16-year-old Braylee Rae Henry of Velma and 14-year-old Alyssa Wiles of Duncan.

They left so many friends and loved ones behind.

But love is powerful and endless, and through it, Alyssa and Braylee live on. They gave so much love during their short lives, and in return, love is still shining their way.

This week, special days were set aside in Velma and at Duncan Middle School to honor and celebrate Braylee and Alyssa.

At Duncan Middle School on Wednesday, in the midst of “Sprit Week,” scores of students in grades 6-8 wore green shirts - many of them lime green - Alyssa’s favorite color - in honor of their schoolmate who died on June 10.

Brad Wiles, Alyssa’s father, joined them for a celebration in the school gymnasium, sitting among them in a sea of smiles and lime green. On his T-shirt was a picture of Alyssa with her own wide smile.

Some teachers took part, too, and all donated $1 each with the money going to a scholarship fund in Alyssa’s name.

Angela Wiles, Alyssa’s mom, said via email that she and Brad were honored and humbled.

“Alyssa always loved to dress quirky and liked attention like any other teenager,” Angela said. “She would have been tickled green that so many people love and miss her.”

Angela was attending a conference in Oklahoma City and could not be there, but Brad soaked in lots of affection.

“He received so many hugs from young people who did not know what else or how else to show their love and feelings,” Angela said.

The Duncan High School Pom squad had planned to dedicate their halftime performance to Alyssa’s memory during the football game on Sept. 13, but it was rained out. Alyssa was a dance student at Heartbeat Dance Studio for five years.

“Alyssa danced at Heartbeat with so many of these dancers and would be so thrilled to be the center of attention at a football game,” Angela said.

In Velma on Friday, it was officially “Braylee Rae Henry Day” as proclaimed by the Town Council. Braylee died on June 6, 2012.

The proclamation adopted by the council on Sept. 10 was framed, along with a picture of Braylee, and given to Renee Henson — Braylee’s mom — and other family members.

It says Braylee was a beautiful young lady, cherished member of the Velma-Alma High School senior class of 2013 and a beloved member of the community.

Velma Mayor Shawn Enloe, a longtime friend of Renee’s, noted that Friday was Braylee’s birthday. She would have been 18.

“What we do on birthdays is celebrate life,” Enloe said. “Braylee is no different than any other Velma kid. It’s part of being raised in a small town and raised by parents who grew up here. We teach our kids to treat others the way they want to be treated and Braylee was that kind of person.”

At the high school, students sported shirts and shorts and ribbons of purple and turquoise - Braylee’s favorite colors. A happy birthday sign was placed in the lobby and the 21 members of the senior class released balloons in her honor.

The cheerleaders wore turquoise shirts during the football game Friday night.

Earlier in Braylee’s honor, many students volunteered to help Moore recover from the deadly tornado that struck there in May. And some have helped at the Jesus House, a Christian outreach program in Oklahoma City that was dear to Braylee.

“They are focusing on doing things to celebrate her life and the kind of person she was,” said Denise Thompson, a teacher at the high school. “She was somebody who wanted to help other people. They feel like they can carry on her name that way more than a lot of other ways.”

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