By: Sharon Aron Baron

The very basketball court where Luke Hoyer spent so much of his time was dedicated in a service attended by family and close friends to the 15-year-old freshman who was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on February 14, and a plaque bearing his photo now lies next to the court that the Parkland Golf & Country Club has dedicated to him.

Luke Hoyer was known by his family as a sweet boy with a friendly face and sweet smile who brought happiness to all those around him.

“Luke loved his family, his friends, his dogs, basketball, Clemson football, family trips to South Carolina, the Jersey Shore, Miami Heat, Dwayne Wade and chicken nuggets,” recounts his mother Gena Hoyer.

He spent so many hours playing basketball at the court in Parkland Golf & Country Club that if Gena couldn’t find him, she knew that’s where he would be.

Luke was a member of the Parkland Basketball League since elementary school and was looking forward to trying out for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas football team this year, something he had decided to do and was looking forward to.

Luke was both Gena and Tom’s surprise baby, born several years after their children Abby and Jake.  Once the older two went off to college, the family moved from Heron Bay to a smaller home for the three of them in Parkland Golf & Country Club. A home they bought because of Luke. 

“Everyday, I believe Luke is going to walk in that door,” said Gena, who called him “Lukey Bear”.

She said that he didn’t need to say much, just having him around made the room feel warm and welcoming. His contagious smile and good nature will be greatly missed by those that knew and loved him.

As a Guardian ad Litem for almost three years, Gena works helping abused, neglected and abandoned children in Broward County. As part of Voices For Children, both her and Tom set up the Luke Hoyer Athletic Fund because they felt it was a good way to help other children.  The fund has already provided sports equipment and training to children for basketball, football and dance.

“This fund allows his sweet, giving spirit to live on in helping children in times of need,” said Gena.

The 17 families of the victims have also come together to form “Stand with Parkland” to advocate for the safety of kids and teachers in schools. It was formed because they do not want anyone else to experience the loss of a family member due to senseless violence that was preventable. 

Last Saturday, several hundred people attended the dedication of Luke’s basketball court, including his friend Jack O’Keefe, who met him through football, and became good friends with him in middle school. He read a poem in Luke’s honor, then both he and Gena released butterflies into the wind.

Pastor David Hughes with Church by the Glades told Gena and Tom they weren’t alone and were surrounded by family and friends along with Luke’s basketball buddies.

“I watched you guys cry. I watched you searching for answers, I saw the foundation of your faith.  I saw how you believe that Luke is more alive than ever before, and you will see your boy again. We believe that with you,” said Pastor Hughes.

He dedicated the court to the life and the laughter and the love of Luke Hoyer.

“We don’t always know what to say, but we are standing here with you,” he told them.

“The bible says it’s a blessed thing when you weep with those who weep – and sometimes we don’t know what to say, but we’re showing up. And the precious moments when you smile, we smile with you.”

Gena said they will continue to feel Luke’s presence in their hearts and souls.  “He will always remain our Lukey Bear.” 

To donate to Voices of Broward go to: www.voicesbroward.org. After logging on the website, Luke’s Fund can be found in the Make a Donation menu. To join Stand with Parkland, go to www.standwithparkland.org.