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Tears fall from the sky as Orange CYMS farewells 11-year-old "gentle giant" Abe Maki

May 28, 2022


Balloons are released at Norton Park on May 28, 2022, as Orange CYMS pays tribute to Abe Maki. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

By Peter Holmes


Balloons in the colours of Orange CYMS Junior Rugby League Football Club floated towards the heavens just after midday on Saturday at Norton Park as the league community came together to pay tribute to one of their own - 11-year-old Abe Maki.


The footy-loving Abe died suddenly on May 13.


Abe Maki. Facebook.

In a statement on social media advising CYMS members of the tribute, the club said Abe's death had "sent absolute shockwaves and deep sadness through our whole community".


Members of Abe's family attended the tribute. His grandmother spoke briefly, and the elder of his two sisters recited The Lord's Prayer.

As they spoke, teams of young football players stood silently in rows.


Balloons in the Orange CYMS colours are handed out to young players. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

During the morning, under a gazebo tent, a table had been set up on which sat candles wrapped in CYMS coloured ribbon, a small plastic container for donations to the family, and a glass jar.


On the jar was a sticker that read "A note to Abe". People were invited to write short tributes and place them inside the jar.

The notes were read by young players and officials during the tribute.


Nerissa Clarke honours Abe as his two younger sisters hold balloons. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Abe was remembered as a well-mannered young boy with an infectious smile, and a bright and bubbly personality. A gentle giant.


The notes included condolences to Abe's family.


A minute's silence was observed before the balloons were released into the sky.


Club secretary Nerissa Clarke said the club would stand beside the family in solidarity now and into the future.

Noon had been chosen as the time for the tribute so both hands on the clock were pointing toward the sky.


The tribute to Abe Maki at Norton Park. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

She asked those in attendance to applaud as the balloons were released so that Abe knew they were on their way.

After the tribute Clarke told The Orange News Examiner that Abe's death had impacted "everyone across the whole club".


The balloons are released. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

She said the club had chosen bright balloons because "we wanted something bright and happy in a sense, because that's how we all picture Abe to be, and it was appropriate for the age of our children. We very much wanted the children to be involved".


As she spoke, the skies suddenly opened and it began pouring with rain. The image of the heavens weeping for young Abe was not lost on Clarke.


The scene at Norton Park. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

"Goodness me," she said, pausing for a moment to collect herself. "I'm sorry, that's just got me."


And then, a few minutes later, with the same speed with which it arrived, the downpour stopped, the clouds cleared and the sun began to shine.

A gofundme has been set up by Clarke to help the family with funeral costs and ongoing expenses.

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