The three powerful lawmakers took their turns speaking before the crowd, each one struggling to find the right words.
If this had been a political rally, maybe the words would have come easier. But this was something much tougher. This was a memorial for Jack Splitt.
“How many 15-year-olds change the world the way Jack did?” state Rep. Jonathan Singer asked during his eulogy.
A crowd of hundreds on Thursday remembered Splitt, a Jefferson County teenager who battled cerebral palsy and whose lobbying efforts at the state Capitol changed the law not once but twice.
Splitt died last week from complications of cerebral palsy.
Splitt used medical marijuana to treat the excruciating pain that came with his condition, and his advocacy helped pass bills that now allow potentially thousands of special-needs kids in Colorado to use medical cannabis while at school. Although Splitt could not speak, lawmakers heard his voice through written testimony that Splitt — a bright and eager student — prepared himself.
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But more than that, lawmakers who spoke Thursday remembered his smile and his eyes, always scanning the committee room to make a silent plea.
His message was simple — that all children should be given the chance to be a part of their community. And so that community went Thursday to Splitt’s memorial: kids in wheelchairs and kids with canes and kids who turned cartwheels on the lawn of the Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms, where the service was held.
There were powerhouse lawyers and state officials. People in Broncos jerseys to honor Jack’s love of the team. One child wore a Spider-Man costume, another of Jack’s favorites.
His elementary schoolteacher told stories of how Splitt could be so eager to answer questions that even the computer he used to communicate couldn’t keep up.
“Jack was a special education teacher’s dream come true,” Katrine Breien Gosselin said.
And a friend with cerebral palsy, speaking through his own computer, told stories of mischief the two would try to get into.
“You cannot imagine how very much I will miss him,” the boy, Gabriel Heany, said.
Splitt’s mom, Stacey Linn, spoke of Jack’s legacy. Activists around the world now know his name. In addition to changing minds about medical marijuana, Jack challenged ideas about what special-needs kids can do.
“If my son was able to do that,” she said, “I ask you, who will you change?”
During the service, Jack’s family released butterflies into the air, a symbol of a vibrant life freed from its bounds. In the audience, a little girl watched as they fluttered over the crowd. Then she pointed her finger and turned to her mother and said, “Look!”