FLOYD -- Audible raindrops spattered on the roof of the Floyd County High School gymnasium as tears streamed down the faces of mourners packed inside.
Three-year-old Joshua Cantrell was remembered at Thursday night's memorial service as a little blond-haired bundle of energy who touched lives and inspired hope in all who knew him.
"He honestly to me was a beautiful boy," said Floyd County girls' basketball assistant coach Lynette Vest, who sat in a front corner of the gymnasium with the team that Joshua's grandfather Alan Cantrell has led to hundreds of victories in his 23 years as a teacher and coach at Floyd County.
"He had this smile that would just leave a lasting impression," she said.
The son of former Floyd County guard and first-year assistant girls' basketball coach Travis Cantrell died Monday at Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center almost two months to the day after physicians found the first trace of a malignant tumor on his brain.
Diagnosed four days after Christmas and admitted to Duke on Jan. 9, Joshua had been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments before being moved into an intensive care unit on Feb. 19 with a staph infection and accelerated heart rate.
The little boy, who was remembered Thursday for his passion for cowboys, the Doxology and Thomas the Tank Engine, suffered a brain-damaging stroke in his final days.
Four-year-old cancer patient Chance Harman, son of Floyd County boys' basketball coach Brian Harman, in mid-January joined Joshua at Duke. He is scheduled to undergo his 22nd day of radiation treatment today.
A yellow banner in the back corner of the gym bearing the inscription "We love Chance and Joshua," put up when the two boys received their eerily timed diagnoses, remains in place. Vest doesn't see it coming down any time soon.
"There's still Chance," she said. "There's two parts to this deal. We've still got to be here for him. I think it will stay."
Alan Cantrell thanked a room full of red-eyed listeners, who had already filled the gym to half capacity 30 minutes before the service began, for their prayers and encouragement throughout the past two months.
"I heard someone say that it takes an entire community to raise a child," the three-time state champion coach said.
"[Wife] Gayle and I, his parents and his grandparents have been thankful that we live in a community that has helped us raise our children and grandchildren. We are thankful that we live in a community that has helped us celebrate the lives of our children and grandchildren, and we are thankful that we live in a community that has helped us through the loss of our grandchild," the coach added.
As of Thursday afternoon, the support Web site www.samefight.org had logged more than 738,000 page views from more than 51,000 unique visitors since its debut Jan. 11. In the past week alone, close to $60,000 has been raised in benefits for Joshua and Chance.
"It's amazing what this community has done as well as surrounding communities," said Bridget Thompson, a Floyd County alumna who attended the memorial service. "It's a small community in which everyone cares about everyone. It's such a caring and loving community. The outpouring of Christian love is just amazing."
Travis Cantrell, who moved his family back to Floyd from Colorado last summer, said the outpouring has kept his faith strong through his son's sickness and death.
"The skeptics can sit out there and say that's an example of the Lord not coming through," he said. "Each day He comforts us. He took the pain away. He did hear our prayers -- just in a different way."