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I am lucky enough to be the parents of Keegan and Devin and Brianna Dollinger and the manager of a boys (now) U-19 club soccer team on which Dillon played for probably 4 years. I am lucky on both counts for many reasons but one of them being that Devin and Keegan’s friendship with Dillon and my position as manager of the team give me the opportunity to come to know the Henry family and Dillon. I am so grateful for that because I believe that while everyone is unique and special in their own ways, some among us shine out as leaders and heroes. Again, not to say that we are all not heroes in our own right, but I mean the kind of person that everyone notices and is drawn to. Dillon was to me that kind of person.
Dillon was not only the soul of our soccer team (anyone from the team will remember Dillon leading the cheers before going onto the field and urging his teammates on during a game) but the player probably most aware and concerned about the overall well being of the team. And I realize now, someone filled with wisdom beyond his years. He was also kind, thoughtful and not one to speak ill of anyone.
So I was rather surprised when he expressed his view to me that we not take a certain player onto the team because in his opinion the presence of the player would have a negative effect on the team. He backed his comments up with a well-written email so I shared his concerns with our then coach. However, what Dillon described about the player were fairly intangible things that are hard to nail down and not evident during practice. So far we had not played any games that season. I told Dillon that player decisions were up to the coach but I would discuss his concerns with the coach. The coach decided to sign the player because he really not could see any problems.
Well, it is probably obvious what happened next. Once practice season ended and tournament play started, sure enough, the player in question exhibited a different presence on the field. Suffice it to say that there was a negative effect on the other players that ultimately affected many games to the detriment of the team.
Dillon never said I told you so, never complained about it, he just made the best of it, even though he had been completely correct in his analysis of what would happen. What is remarkable is that he had the foresight to see how this single player’s issues could affect the whole team and that he had the courage to take what could surely be viewed, as an unusual stand against a player who as far as anyone else could see seemed perfectly fine. Even then, though I was somewhat mystified, I did not dismiss what he said out of hand. Because of the honest, sincere person Dillon was, what he said could not be dismissed lightly. However, given that the coach thought the player could make a contribution to the team it was hard to reject him.
I chose this maybe odd example of a way in which Dillon stood out because to me it demonstrates the complexity of Dillon. It was not just his incredible smile and his positive energy (or that he was the one in a group of maybe ten guys hanging around our house with my boys who, when I might ask “is anyone hungry” or “are you all going out” or any question, it would be Dillon who would hear me and respond while fully engaged in the back and forth of what was happening) that defined who he was. Even at a young age he had more to him than being the very nice guy he was, though that would be plenty. He was aware both of joy and the fun things he so readily enjoyed doing, but also of the darker, sadder things in life. Perhaps his sincere belief and determination that he, and all of us, could help make those things better is what drew so many to him.
Because of the many memories I have of Dillon with Keegan and Devin and with the team, and my friendship with the family and living in the Palisades and just because of who he was, I think of him often. Incredibly, when I do think of him, I feel myself smile though I may feel the sadness and the tears start, because when you think of Dillon how can you not smile?
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