ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) — Many Highland Middle School students and staff never met Suncerria Uditsky.
After all, the 12-year-old was part of the Highland family for such a short time — just two weeks — before she died in a tragic bicycle accident last Friday.
Despite being a fresh face in the halls, students and staff honored Suncerria’s memory this week, raising more than $1,500 in cash donations and $300 in gift cards as well as a food basket to support her family through their grief.
Between 400 and 500 students made donations of $2 each to participate in “hat day” on Friday. Normally, they can’t wear hats on campus, but during lunch dozens donned hats of all shapes, sizes, styles and colors.
And everyone who donated was given a pink or purple wristband to wear, Suncerria’s favorite colors, Highland Principal Kelly Durr said.
She said the money would be used to help pay funeral or living expenses
“I met her one time,” said Mason Barnett, a seventh-grade student. He said Suncerria sat and ate lunch with him and a friend, who was celebrating her birthday.
“When I found out they were raising money for the family I thought I should help because people were really sad about what happened to her,” said Colton Brooks, an eighth-grader. “I wanted to help support her family with the trouble they went through.”
“She just came to school and nobody really got to know her,” said Dakotah Alumbaugh. “It was just so sad because you didn’t realize it (the accident) was going to happen.”
David Ellis, Suncerria’s sixth-grade math and science teacher, said after two weeks in class she was just starting to adjust and make friends. He was beginning to know her personality and abilities, too.
“We were just starting to get to that level when the tragedy happened,” he told The Herald-Bulletin.
According to the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, Suncerria and her father, Marcus Uditsky, were riding bicycles south on Scatterfield Road near the intersection of Rainbow Boulevard about 8:40 p.m. last Friday when she was struck by a van.
She died early Saturday morning at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
Sheriff Ron Richardson said a van driven by Robert Scharnowske, 65, of Anderson hit Suncerria. Richardson said the father was riding behind his daughter when the van swerved. The van missed the father but hit the girl.
Scharnowske told police he was also traveling south on Scatterfield when he looked at a sign on the side of the road. When he looked back he was almost on top of the riders. He swerved to the left and missed the father but hit the back of Suncerria’s bike, Richardson said.
Richardson said the accident is still under investigation. Scharnowske passed a field sobriety test at the scene and has cooperated with police.
Durr said Marcus Uditsky donated his daughter’s organs and “he’s happy that she’ll be able to live on through others.”
Suncerria enrolled in the sixth grade at Highland on April 1 after moving from Minnesota to Anderson to live with her father. He could not be reached for comment Friday.
As Durr talked in her office about how the tragedy has affected Highland this past week, two of Suncerria’s classmates in art class delivered a brightly colored paper mache goldfish she was working on, but had not yet finished.
Jourdan White and Demonte Brooks told Durr the class decided to finish the project and they all signed their names on it adding: “We will miss you.”
Durr gently laid the treasure among the other items being donated to Suncerria’s family.