A very special birthday was celebrated Wednesday at Country Estates Park in Broomfield.
Family and friends of Dominic DePalma, who died on July 28 in a car wreck on US 287 in Lafayette, gathered at the site of a memorial started by other Broomfield High School students to celebrate what would have been his 18th birthday.
At precisely 2:48 p.m., the time Dominic was born, those who gathered released balloons in honor of his memory and spent time remembering his life over hot chocolate, games and conversation.
“Eighteen years ago, at 2:48, Dominic was born, and he had a tremendous impact on all of us, and we all loved him and that’s why we are here,” said Melissa Whitmer, a family friend of the DePalmas.
Whitmer encouraged everyone to think of a special memory or thought of Dominic before releasing their balloons into the sky. There were green balloons, to represent his favorite color, and blue and white balloons, to represent Broomfield High School’s colors.
“It’s so meaningful that people continue to show up for Dominic,” Tami DePalma, his mother, said after the balloon release. “I have friends who do the most amazing things for me over and over, from the first candlelight vigil to the thousands who have come to honor my son. There’s no end to what everybody is willing to do for us.”
The family is working on raising money and establishing a scholarship in Dominic’s name to go to someone in the Broomfield Soccer Club, which played a huge role in his life.
So far, the scholarship fundraiser has raised more than $22,000. Tami DePalma said her son was described by other players and parents as the “glue that held the team together,” and that is what she hopes to honor with the scholarship.
“I’ve been trying to learn how to identify that kind of player that has grit, who won’t always be recognized just as a dominator on the field, but also a leader when you really see the heartbeat of the team,” Tami DePalma said.
Soccer.com and Adidas have also committed to annual scholarship agreements in Dominic’s name.
Whitmer said the birthday celebration is a shift from the tremendous loss to a celebration of Dominic’s life and legacy in the Broomfield community.
“We all have so many amazing memories of Dominic,” Whitmer said. “Being here together and remembering all the amazing things about Dominic, like his smile, his laugh, and his skills on the soccer field just gives us comfort. We’re all here because we loved him so much, and he touched our hearts.”
Tami DePalma said she also hopes to use Dominic’s legacy to encourage other people to continue to be smart and never drink and drive. She said she is using his initials, “DD,” to encourage always having a sober or “designated driver.”
The scholarship fund is still open and taking donations at GiveSendGo.