Local Schools Hold 'Teddy Bear Toss' In Honor of 14-Year-Old

By: Anthony Sabella Email
By: Anthony Sabella Email

Walking into the sold out gym at Portland Middle School, Friday night, and it's easy to see the impact Trent Bengel had on those who knew him.

"Every time you saw him, he was smiling," said family friend Debbie Prince.

As more than 700 teddy bears hit the gym floor during halftime of the Pewamo-Westphalia, Portland St. Patrick basketball game, Randy and Terri Bengel could only watch in awe as two communities came together in honor of their son, Trent.

"Trent would be proud," said Randy Bengel.

Three weeks ago, Trent, an eighth grader at Pewamo-Westphalia Junior High, passed away after a three-year battle with brain cancer.

"He was a fight all the way through," said Bengel. "He never complained, had a smile on his face the whole time and on January 12th, went up to be with the Lord."

Those closest to Trent immediately began thinking of ways to remember him. We a dad who attended Pewamo-Westphalia and a mom who graduated from St. Patrick, Friday's game was quickly circled.

"We thought it would be great to dedicate the game in his honor," said Randy Hodge, Principal of St. Patrick and a family friend.

Hodge quickly came up with an idea.

"I went to a Michigan State hockey game, last year, where they did a teddy bear toss after the first goal was scored," said Hodge. "I thought we could try it at a basketball game, the same idea."

The bears would be donated in Trent's honor. Word quickly spread around both schools, t-shirts were made and hundreds of bears were brought into the gym.
The result was a reason for home in the wake of a family's devastating loss.

"No words can express it," said Randy Bengel. "It's just awesome that everyone could come together for something like this."

The teddy bears will be donated to the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital and Grand Rapids Hospice, two places where Trent received care.

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