CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Hundreds in the community came out to celebrate the life of Randez Brown the very day marking his 12th birthday.
Family and friends held a candlelight vigil Monday at the football field behind Marie G. Davis Middle School, near the creek where he died trying to save his sister.
His family brought cupcakes as part of his birthday celebration, and later released colorful ballons in his honor after singing him “Happy Birthday."
“He was the sweetest little fella. He was probably crying, saying look at all this love I have," said Demetrice Lockett.
Gloria Bess was also among those who came out in support of the family.
"Lots of love, compassion and prayers. Prayers, prayers, prayers. That's all we could do," she said.
Pastor Eddie Davis from South Carolina’s Word of Life Christian Church offered a prayer, telling the crowd his congregation became acquainted with Randez, or “Ronnie,” during his visits to the church in the summer.
“We are just so hurt and our hearts are so heavy, but I’m just reminded of Ron's kindness, his love and his care for everybody," said Pastor Davis.
"I really do believe at the bottom of my heart at the age of 12, that Ron’s living has not been in vain. Look at all the people who have gathered here, the love that he is touching today," he said.
Randez, was the third oldest child in a family of five.
His older brother called for help when the fast moving water swept Randez and Samiyah into the creek Thursday night.
Randez jumped in the water to save his 7-year-old sister, who slipped on a rock while playing along the culvert with a group of children.
Joyce Hart, Brown’s paternal grandmother said she hopes the candlelight “reaches to heaven,” because that is where he is.
The family says Samiyah’s condition has improved.
"She attempted to open her eyes yesterday, while we were reading to her, and we are trusting God to bring her through. We believe if God wanted her, He would have taken her when He took Randez. We believe in God, to restore this child,” said Hart.
Through tears, and surrounded by her family, including her youngest, 5 year-old Barack, Brown’s mother offered words of gratitude.
“I think it's awesome and I appreciate all the support everybody has for my son,” she said.
She says Randez’s actions always exemplified his commitment to his family’s well-being.
"My baby, my beautiful baby, prettiest baby,” she said.
"He was so pretty and helpful. He would ask everyday, 'are you okay, you alright, you need anything from the store?”
“It just touched my heart. I was at work when I found out, it just tore me up, I just cried. I just thought it was so amazing, a child that young could be so caring about others," said Mary Freely.
Freely like many in the community had never met Randez, but says his spirit will live on.
"He is going to be alright, but I just pray that God gives the family strength to get through this, and I know He will," she said.
His funeral will take place Saturday afternoon at Chappell Memorial (110 Bradford Drive).
The family is needing assistance for burial costs and have set up a memorial fund online, c/o Randez Brown Trust Fund Foundation: www.gofundme.com.