'Baseball families stick together': Wisconsin native encourages people to wear jerseys Friday to honor Jackson Sparks

·4 min read

Children are encouraged to wear baseball jerseys to the funeral service for 8-year-old Jackson Sparks, according to his obituary. Sparks was walking in the Waukesha Christmas Parade with his Waukesha Blazers baseball team when a driver plowed an SUV through the parade.

Six people, including Sparks, have died, and more than 60 were injured.

A Wisconsin native is now urging people across the nation to wear jerseys Friday to honor Sparks and show support for his family.

More: What we know about the Waukesha Christmas Parade attack

Jackson Sparks, 8, smiles for a photo with the Waukesha Blazers Baseball/Fastpitch Softball Club shortly before the Waukesha Christmas Parade began Sunday. Sparks was struck by the driver that plowed through the parade. He is the sixth person to die from his injuries in the parade, and the first child.
Jackson Sparks, 8, smiles for a photo with the Waukesha Blazers Baseball/Fastpitch Softball Club shortly before the Waukesha Christmas Parade began Sunday. Sparks was struck by the driver that plowed through the parade. He is the sixth person to die from his injuries in the parade, and the first child.

"I can't imagine what it would be like to lose a child, and then to lose a child in this manner," said Todd Ahrens, a Greendale native and father of four. "It's every parent's beyond horrific worst nightmare. And I just want them to know that their little boy meant a lot to those around him and across the United States."

Jackson and his 12-year-old brother, Tucker, who was also injured in the incident, were hospitalized in the intensive care unit at Children’s Wisconsin.

Jackson underwent brain surgery Nov. 21, according to his GoFundMe page. He died from his injuries two days later. Tucker is recovering from a fractured skull and road rash, and was to be discharged home, according to a Nov. 23 update on the page.

On Monday, Ahrens made a Facebook post, encouraging people to have their kids wear jerseys to school on Friday to honor Jackson.

"It's not so much about us putting the jersey on," said Ahrens, who lives in Rockwall, Texas. "It's us letting Jackson's family know that there's a lot of people out here that are just devastated by what happened and they have a support group."

Sparks' love of baseball hits close to home for Ahrens. His two teenage sons play select baseball, and his oldest son previously played the sport.

"The baseball community, it's a tight-knit family across the whole United States," Ahrens said. "Baseball families stick together."

So far, Ahrens' post has been shared well over 6,000 times on Facebook alone. It's also been circulating on Twitter.

The Brewer Nation Twitter account, which has 39,000 followers, shared it, and sportscaster Brian Anderson did too, tweeting that he'll be sporting a baseball jersey Friday.

Ahrens' teen sons also made a TikTok video to try to get more people involved.

Ahrens said groups across the country have already reached out to say that they will be participating, from a Los Angeles high school to baseball organizations in Missouri and Nevada.

"It warms me to the core," Ahrens said.

Ahrens and his family were visiting family in Wisconsin when they heard about the parade tragedy. His niece, a Waukesha North High School cheerleader, was in the parade, but was safe.

For about a decade, Ahrens drove a vehicle in that parade when he worked in promotions and marketing for radio station FM106.1.

Ahrens and his wife, Brenda, a Brookfield native, are both first responders. He's a firefighter/EMT and she's a nurse.

"Our hearts just bled terrible for everybody that was there and everything that happened," he said. "We grieved with the rest of Wisconsin."

A visitation and funeral service for Sparks is scheduled for Thursday, with a private family burial Friday, according to his obituary.

"As Jackson Sparks family and friends come together for his funeral, his teammates will be wearing their baseball jerseys to honor and celebrate his life and love of baseball," the Waukesha Blazers Baseball Club said in a statement issued Tuesday.

In lieu of flowers, the Sparks family said donations can be directed to the Waukesha Blazers in Jackson's memory, according to the statement.

Donations can be made through the purchasing of special Blazers T-shirts at forms.gle/FCaAgBSUCq45t7AM8 or the organization's GoFundMe, gofundme.com/f/waukesha-blazers-memorial-fund.

“The outreach from the baseball community, honestly from all over the country, has been moving beyond words, Jeff Rogers, president of the Blazers Baseball Club, said in the statement. “The Blazers are family and losing Jackson has been devastating. Out of this terrible and unimaginable time, we look for some good to shine through. Jackson was an energetic and caring young boy who loved baseball and has captured the hearts of our nation. As a club, we hope to build a lasting legacy to honor him and bring families together to help children to learn and grow through baseball.”

Sophie Carson of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

Contact Hannah Kirby at hannah.kirby@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HannahHopeKirby.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Waukesha parade tragedy: Wear jerseys Friday to honor Jackson Sparks

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