BELLEVILLE, Ill. – Family, friends, and former teammates of Jermel Ware, 13, gathered on the Jayce Park practice field in Belleville Friday night. The field is where coaches say he practiced with passion.

Jermel lost his life in a go-kart accident that remains under investigation.

His mother described her son as caring, loving, full of energy, and passionate about sports. The tragedy came a day before she graduated from Washington University. 

Friends held balloons and candles as they shared joyful memories during Friday’s vigil.

“It makes me sad because I know all these hearts are broken, but it makes me happy knowing that he had that effect on everybody he touched or came across,” Jasmine Phiffer, Jermel’s mother, said.

Former coaches say Jermel never wanted to come off the field. He played offense and defense and was coachable, respectful, and full of energy, they said.

“He was really good on hard work and dedication, so this is a dedication to him and his hard work,” Belleville Little Knights Coach Kejuan Billops said.

Demarquo Sanders coached Jermel through the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Community Center in East St. Louis. He said seeing the large circle of family and friends who gathered to pay their respects was moving.

“It just speaks of who Jermel was,” he said.  “Jermel was one of those kids where you love to see him come around because of his smile and his energy.”

A box of notes from classmates and mementos was given to Jermel’s mother.

“It’s something I can look at on my sad days,” she said.

Phiffer appreciates the support everyone has offered but added that she’s also available for anyone struggling right now.

“Take it one day at a time and let it out,” said Sanders. “It’s okay to cry.”

Services for Jermel will be held on May 31 at New Life in Christ Church at 689 Scott Troy Rd., #1907, Lebanon, Ill. The visitation will be held at 10 a.m., with the funeral service beginning at noon.