TUPELO • Family, students and faculty celebrated the life of Jaeven Dixon at Tupelo Middle School’s Civic Auditorium on Thursday morning.
The 14-year-old eighth-grader died after collapsing during basketball practice with the Tupelo Saints travel basketball organization on Feb. 7.
The program opened with a slideshow, Scripture readings and prayer by leadership members of the middle school’s FCA chapter. It also featured performances by the TMS choir, TMS band and a message delivered by a local pastor.
The somber mood lightened as the Tupelo Middle School Boys Basketball team took the stage to share their favorite memories of Dixon, who also played for the school’s team, with the roughly 700 people in attendance.
Noah Gillon, an eighth-grade basketball player, praised Dixon’s character.
He recalled times during workouts when the team was supposed to complete eight reps and some would attempt to sneak by with only five reps. But not Jaeven.
“He would do all eight reps and it inspired me and inspired the rest of the team to work hard at all times,” Gillon said.
Montavi Pierson, an eighth-grade basketball player, said Jaeven was the type of person who never counted anyone out. He was constantly encouraging others, including Pierson.
“He made me feel great,” Pierson said. “He made me feel like I was the fastest person on the team, best player on the team. He just made you feel that type of way even if you weren’t.”
Other players’ comments filled the room with laughter as they described how Dixon would joke with them or argue about who got the most attention from girls.
A decorative plate reading “I will be with you always” from Midnite Pottery was signed by the FCA leadership team and given to Dixon’s family.
Anthony Dixon, Jaeven’s father, described his son as “a comedian” who liked to make everyone laugh. He said he could tell from the huge crowd that Jaeven “inspired a lot of people.”
Kawana Bell, Jaeven’s mother, said the celebration showed her what a great impact her son had on his classmates and school.
“It means a lot,” Bell said. “It lets me know that it’s more than just me.”
Bell said she could see from Thursday morning’s turnout that Jaeven “extended his heart out to others,” in addition to his family and she’s appreciative for that.
“Long live Jae,” she added.