RICHMOND, R.I. (WPRI) – More than 1,000 people attended a vigil to mourn the loss of a Chariho High School senior after her sudden death this past weekend.
A candlelight vigil began at 7 p.m. on Monday to honor Maddie Potts, 17, of Richmond. During a soccer game Saturday night against the Middletown team, Potts took a penalty kick, but collapsed on the field; officials say she died due to a brain aneurysm, not related to the game.
“Be strong for number 11, be strong for my amazing co-captain, friend sister, teammate and fellow classmate,” Rachel Irkin, a friend and teammate of Potts, said at the emotional vigil.
Holding candles and shedding tears, her teammates, classmates and hundreds of other athletes, students and community members from across the state gathered on the Chariho High School fields in the same spot where Potts collapsed.
Her mother spoke to the crowd, telling those who gathered to remember her daughter to continue to pursue the activities and sports they love.
“Soccer did not take her life, an unexpected brain abnormality did, we should all be so lucky to die while participating in the activity we have the most passion for,” her mother said. “She left her soul on that 30-yard line. We can all be confident that she scored the last goal she was about to take. Just as she was being recruited to a higher level that needed her as their captain.”
Barry Ricci, Superintendent of Chariho Schools said Potts was the “complete package.”
“You have a picture of what you want all kids to strive for, you would pick Maddie,” he said.
Potts was the captain of her soccer team, a lacrosse player, and is the daughter of a science teacher at Chariho Middle School.
Ricci said her peers put together a memorial on the soccer field. Surrounded by soccerballs sit flowers on the spot where she collapsed during the game on Saturday night.
Chariho was playing against Middletown when the tragedy took palce. Middletown’s superintendent sent out a statement offering condolences to Chariho.
“The Middletown School Community extends its deepest sympathy to the Chariho community and the Potts family. This is heartbreaking for all,” the statement said.
Ricci said Potts represented the best of the school.
“Bright, athletic, kind, generous, compassionate, artistic, and the list could go on,” he explained.
Counselors were being made available to students and staff Monday. Flags at the school were lowered to half-staff and the Rhode Island Interscholastic League is asking students to observe a moment of silence before games this week, and to wear blue, which is Potts’ favorite color.