CROWN POINT — Forming a circle and joining hands, a group of teens prayed at a Chicago Hospital for their 17-year-old friend who was on his motorcycle when he was hit by a vehicle three days ago.
He stayed up with them through countless late night study sessions. Just two weeks ago, they gathered on the dance floor for prom. In just a few short weeks, they would have been celebrating the start of summer vacation.
On Friday night, they were gathered around him to say goodbye.
Clayton Gaudry, of Crown Point, died Saturday morning, his mother Jessica Gaudry said.
“Just here at the hospital, there were well over 100 kids,” Jessica Gaudry said. “There was not a dry eye in the house. We stood in a circle and prayed. To see 16 and 17-year-old kids praying like that, it was powerful.”
The 17-year-old Crown Point High School junior was in critical condition after he was rear-ended while on a motorcycle Tuesday night by the driver of a pickup truck on U.S. 231, police said. His family said his organs are being donated.
His best friend, Elizabeth Gonzalez, 16, Crown Point High School junior, was by his side at the hospital every hour she could be, up to the very end.
“We would always sit next to each other in class. Clayton told me every day, 'I don't know how you are so happy everyday,' and I would say, 'Oh, I don't know,” Rodriguez said. At the hospital, she gave him an answer. “I told him the reason I was happy was because I got to see him every day.”
The crash that claimed a life
The crash happened around 9:30 p.m. in the 5400 block of U.S. 231, west of Crown Point. Gaudry was on his motorcycle going westbound when he slowed to turn into a driveway, police said.
The driver of the pickup truck, an 85-year-old Monee man, hit the back of the motorcycle.
Gaudry was taken to Franciscan Health Crown Point hospital and was later transferred to the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago, where he was in critical condition.
The Monee man was treated and released from Franciscan Health Crown Point, police said. The crash remains under investigation.
Jessica and Tony Gaudry said they hope U.S. 231 will be improved for safety, in light of how many wrecks have happened on the highway. Tony Gaudry, Clayton's father, said he's seen reckless driving on the highway several times.
“There's so much awareness to be raised in this tragedy,” Jessica Gaudry said. “He was a 4.2 GPA honors student, he had scholarships. He had the whole world sitting in the palm of his hand and it was taken away so quickly. He did nothing wrong. He had his helmet on and had his turn signal and lights on. People need to slow and down and they need to watch for motorcycles. This didn't have to happen.”
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The 17-year-old was set to go to Indiana University Bloomington to major in finance and had already completed college courses over the past three years, Tony Gaudry said.
He loved hockey and played for a team at the Midwest Training and Ice Center for a while, Tim Donnelly, his former coach said.
“Clayton had all of the things you love to have when coaching a young man,” Donnelly said. “He was a hard worker, he played whatever role was asked of him and he was a great friend to his teammates both on and off the ice. The world lost a wonderful young man this week.”
He was also a loving big brother, leaving behind his two younger siblings, Ethan, 14, and Lauryn, 10, who both have cystic fibrosis. He loved being on his motorcycle and riding his dirt bike, as well as hunting and fishing, his family said.
“He was hilarious and goofy,” Rodriguez said. “Although he did a good job of hiding it, he loved school. He was one of the smartest kids you'll ever meet. He loved his friends and he loved his family with his whole heart. ... He was selfless. He'd be the first person to be there for you— he just cares so much.”
Surrounded by love
A GoFundMe page to help pay for medical bills was set up by friends of Clayton Gaudry after the wreck and was transferred to the control of the family after his death. The GoFundMe webpage, “Help pay for Clayton's Medical Bills,” has raised more than $24,000 by 475 people in three days and has been shared more than 2,600 times on social media.
“The outreach from the community has been amazing,” Tony Gaudry said.
A vigil for Gaudry, organized by friends, will start at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Crown Point Square outside of the courthouse, according to the Facebook event page Candlelight for Clayton. Attendees are asked to bring their own candles.
The Crown Point High School choir will be singing some of Gaudry's favorite songs, “You Say,” by Lauren Daigle and “Oceans,” by Hillsong United. Photos of the teen were collected for a slideshow that will play to the song, "Take Me Home County Roads," by John Denver.
“We used to sing along to that song,” Rodriguez said.
She said the memorial card that will be given out at the vigil will begin, “In loving memory of the most generous teen anyone could meet. He loved every part of the world with his whole heart...”