PALOS HEIGHTS, Ill. (CBS) -- The Alan B. Shepard High School community in southwest suburban Palos Heights is mourning the loss of one of their own.
As CBS 2's Marybel González reported, one of the school's senior athletes died Saturday after a fight with a mononucleosis infection. Hundreds of students gathered on the school's soccer field Wednesday night to pay their respects to the young man, 17-year-old Ryan Plowman.
Family and friends said that field was where Ryan, a soccer star, lived some of his happiest moments.
"The last two weeks by far have been the most stressful, heartbreaking weeks of my life that I've ever had," Ryan's father, Dan Plowman, said at the vigil. "Losing my first born made me want to give up."
Dan Plowman said one of the only things that has helped his grieving family move forward is the support they have received from the Alan B. Shepard High School community.
Ryan, who lived with Crohn's disease, died unexpectedly Saturday after suffering complications form mono.
"The future was bright for him. He had so much to look forward to that, that's what's most devastating," said Ryan's uncle Jonathan Klinek. "Such a young life taken early."
On Wednesday, students wore orange to class to show their support for Ryan. The district superintendent said even students from rival schools participated.
Oak Forest High School posted a photo of their students wearing orange on Instagram.
"The extension of this outreach has just been truly amazing and humbling," said Josh Barron, superintendent of Community High School District 218.
And that same night, friends, family, and teammates once again wrapped their arms around the Plowmans in a vigil where they honored the memory of the beloved soccer star.
They described Ryan as s determined and kind young man whose absence will be felt on and off the field.
"There may not be a reason behind the tragedy, but there is a lesson and a lesson we all needed," one young woman said at the vigil. "Life is short - way too short."
Ryan's coach has set up a GoFundMe page for the family. So far, it has raised $84,000 and counting.
The teen's funeral will be held Friday.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation.
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