He was described as a “young man who has the heart of gold,” and his diagnosis of a rare brain cancer at the age of 15 rallied a community behind him in the fight against such afflictions.
For Jordan Harris, that gallant battle ended in the early morning hours of Oct. 16. He was 18.
“We miss and love Jordan,” a statement read on his Facebook page, Snapback Against Cancer. “We have forever his footprints in our hearts. He has touched our lives, and we can’t describe the impact he has had.”
A memorial service for Harris is scheduled for Oct. 25 at 3:30 p.m. at Cypress Point Community Church, 15820 Morris Bridge Road in Tampa. A funeral service also is slated there the next day, beginning at 11 a.m.
Harris was diagnosed with primitive neuroectodermal tumors in 2011. He was attending Freedom High then and played boys soccer during his freshman and sophomore years.
Surgeries and chemotherapy, however, kept him sidelined in games after that. But he never gave up on the sport, even planning to play recreationally in college.
“If nothing happened, I probably would have wanted to play college soccer on a scholarship,” Harris told The Laker/Lutz News last December. “But it’ll all be about fun now.”
The tumor Harris had is rare, typically found only in people under the age of 25, according to medical experts. The cancer is aggressive, yet Harris was able to overcome early obstacles, even getting some test results as late as May that showed no tumor, according to the family’s Facebook page.
He graduated in June from Freedom, and turned 18 soon after. But later that summer, he found out the cancer had returned, and Harris continued his treatment, according to the family.
Friends, family and students came together Oct. 16 at Freedom High School’s football stadium in an impromptu event to release balloons in Harris’ memory. The air was quiet, with an occasional muffled voice or sob breaking through.
As candles were handed out, Freedom social studies teacher Katie Feldman described Harris as a “beacon at the school, but not just because he was sick. Jordan brought a light to all those around him.
“In my experience, it’s those with the hardest struggles who seem to persevere the most, and Jordan was no exception,” she said. “Talk to anyone who knew him, and they would undoubtedly mention his beautiful smile, the way he always wanted to put other people first, and his unyielding sense of perseverance.”
Harris’ father, Phillip Harris, said his son would want his work to spread a positive influence to those around him to continue.
“You all know the history of my son,” he said. “Let’s focus on the positive things. Seeing that he already set the bar, let’s follow suit to do the same or better.”
Both of Jordan Harris’ parents, Phillip and Kim Harris, shared the light of their candle with the more than 400 people in attendance before everyone walked the track and released their balloons.
“Listening to people talk, driven to tell someone they love them in a moment of sorry instead of finding a quiet place to be sad,” Feldman said. “You reached out toward each other, to try and bring each other closer, and to try to make each other feel loved. That’s Jordan.
“It’s our love for him that gives us a better understanding of our love for one another.”