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Memorial brings 200 to remember 12-year-old Little Leaguer who died in firearm incident
Raising a bundle of white balloons each marked with the No. 12, Anja Hanson let go.
The 10-year-old, wearing her big brother's No. 58 football jersey, looked up as the balloons soared above Lee Johnson Field in memory of her brother, who also played No. 12 on the Majors Rockies team for the Kirkland National Little League.
The remembrance event drew about 200 people to Peter Kirk Park on Monday evening to show support for the family of 12-year-old Drew Hanson, who died suddenly in a firearm accident on Friday, according to his family.
Many youth wore KNLL and Juanita Rebel Pride jerseys to remember their fallen friend. A banner was also raised in Drew's honor, followed by a moment of silence.
During the event, many saddened parents, family members and friends took turns giving hugs to Drew's parents, Dana and Amee Hanson, who stood behind the dugout fence.
"It was just an accident and a weapon was discharged," said Drew's father, Dana, of the circumstances surrounding his son's death on Friday.
According to Kirkland Police Department spokesperson Allen O'Neil, "the victim was found unresponsive with a possible self-inflicted gunshot wound." Police officials wouldn't release any further information regarding the death as the case is currently under investigation.
The King County Medical Examiner's Office has not determined the boy's cause of death and officials said results are pending further police investigation.
Dana said on Friday, his son was "laughing and giggling on his bed" when Amee told her son she made him a tuna fish sandwich and that she would be back soon after she ran some errands. When she returned home, she saw the neighborhood kids playing up the street, so she assumed he was with them.
But Amee became concerned soon after when her son still hadn't come home.
"So she walked upstairs and he wasn't in his room and she didn't see his shoes, so she assumed he was outside playing," recalled Dana, adding his wife found Drew in their bedroom, unresponsive.
Less than a week ago, Dana and Amee had just celebrated their son's 6th-grade graduation from John Muir Elementary on June 22.
They were both overwhelmed by the outpouring of support during the remembrance event on Monday.
"I'm just so amazed by how many people that he has touched in his life," said Drew's mother, crying. "It's just so amazing."
Drew's best friend, 12-year-old Luis Hernandez, said he will never forget one of his last moment's he shared with his friend last week.
"The day that we graduated from elementary school, that same day I took him to the theaters with me," he said. "We had a lot of fun - I've never seen him as happy as he was that day. He was so happy."
He described Drew as a tall kid with red hair and freckles. He was also funny.
"What I remember was that each time he tried to make us laugh or he interrupted the class. He made everybody laugh, like he made funny monkey noises," recalled Hernandez, adding he was looking forward to going into the 7th grade at Kamiakin Junior High with his friend. "I'm going to miss him so much and I'll always be his best friend."
Jessica Johnson, Drew's aunt, said her nephew had also just made the varsity football team for Juanita High School.
"He was happy and fun-loving and adventurous and he loved life and he loved sports and he loved his sister and mom and dad and they loved him," said Johnson, adding that The Drew Hanson Memorial Fund has been set up at U.S. Bank in downtown Kirkland where donations can be made to help support the Hanson family with funeral arrangements.
Many members of the sports community also described Drew as a happy, fun-loving kid.
Alan Lofquist, Drew's Kirkland National Little League coach, said the boy was "effervescent."
"There was always a few kids on the team going, 'yes, coach. yes, coach.' He was one of them," said Lofquist.
He said Drew was a very good third baseman, outfielder and had a lot of power.
He also had a lot of hair.
"He would just be cracking jokes in the dugout, messing around with his big mass of red hair," recalled Lofquist, laughing. "His hat didn't really fit so every time he'd do something, he would take his hat off, whether it was running bases or, he'd pull his hat off in the outfield coming in."
Trevor German also coached him for a couple of years during Drew's six years with KNLL. "He was one of those absolute ideal kids to have on the team," said German, whose son played football with Drew. "He showed up ready to play all the time at practice and games, and always had a smile on his face and was happy to be out there playing baseball."
German, who is on the KNLL Board, said many e-mails have circulated within the organization and greater community about the tragic news and the remembrance event. He said the turnout was "very impressive. Drew obviously touched a lot of people with how many people are out here today to show their support for the family."
Christian Blackburn, 12, was also on the KNLL Rockies team with Drew, and The Boyz team. The Boyz is a north Kirkland baseball organization that was started by a couple of Kirkland National coaches.
Christian said The Boyz recently won a pre-season Pat Downes Memorial Tournament in Woodinville, in which Drew hit a home run and made a "couple good plays." The boys on the team each got to take the trophy home for a week.
He said he was "shocked" by the tragic incident, but will always remember Drew as the kid who always smiled.
"I don't think there was a time when he wasn't smiling."
A memorial service will be held at noon Friday, July 8 at Cedar Park Church, 16300 – 112th Avenue N.E., Bothell. Arrangements are under the care of Chapel of the Resurrection Funeral Home, Bothell. For more information and to leave remembrances visit www.chapeloftheresurrection.net.