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Dedication at Tarentum Skate Park honors teen

| Sunday, May 6, 2007

Chris Pelican was a popular kid.

That was more than evident on Saturday when Pelican's aunt dedicated a park bench and picnic table at Tarentum Skate Park in honor of the teen, who died on Dec. 6.

About 50 people, children and adults, crowded around Sue Cranmer as she unveiled the wooden bench, which was made by the Amish and engraved to memorialize Cranmer's nephew.

"He was unique, and this bench is unique," Cranmer said. "We're here to remember Chris and to celebrate."

Cranmer, of Brackenridge, was Pelican's legal guardian and cared for him almost all of his life.

Pelican, 14, died as a result of playing the "choking game."

Cranmer found her nephew hanging from the doorknob in his room. He was playing the game that has become popular among youths, where they tie something around their neck to restrict oxygen to the brain to get high.

There was little talk, if any, on Saturday of how Pelican died, but Cranmer told a reporter that she continues to visit schools and work with a family organization to educate kids on the dangers of games such as the one that killed her nephew.

Cranmer fought back tears during the brief ceremony, which included encouraging words and a prayer from the Rev. Robert Walker of First Baptist Church in Tarentum.

"Each time you're here, you're going to remember (Pelican)," Walker said, referring to the bench and picnic table. "You should be thankful that you knew him, the great kid that he was."

Afterward, Cranmer said she drew strength from Pelican's friends, who have been paying her regular visits to show support.

"These kids have truly been like my rocks," Cranmer said.

Pelican was described by his friends as an avid skater and good athlete. They said he was extremely popular and personable.

"He was the nicest kid I've ever met in my life," said Libby Small, 13, of Harrison. "He would talk to anybody."

Small said she met Pelican when they were in fifth grade at Fairmount Elementary School in Brackenridge. The two became close friends, she said.

"Now every time I come to the skate park I'll feel like he's here," Small said about the bench and picnic table.

"I'm still waiting for Chris to pull up somewhere," said Brandon Bachman, 14, another one of Pelican's close friends.

Bachman said he and Pelican met in Cub Scouts and became close friends. The two would frequently skate together, Bachman said.

Of Pelican's memorial, Bachman said, "He would've liked it."

Pelican's cousin, Josh Vorp, 17, of Harrison, recalled some of the things Pelican would do that made him unique, such as playing pickup football with a cast on his broken ankle.

Pelican's friends said that Pelican refused to let the injury keep him from skateboarding; that he would stand on the board and use his crutches to push himself along.

It was Pelican's friends who raised the money to buy the bench. They organized charity concerts and games of tag.

"He was such an easy guy to get along with," Vorp said. "I think he would've been surprised to see how many people cared about him."

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