Yesterday, May 20, at 12:22 a.m., Josiah Herring walked through the gates of heaven. He died painlessly of a malignant brain tumor that was diagnosed about a month ago. He was four years of age.
Josiah was the grandson of Bleacher Report's very own Gray Ghost—aka Dean Herring, lifelong Georgia Bulldogs fan, teacher, and minister.
Ghost is one of our most special Bleacher Creatures. His credentials speak for themselves: Of the 23 articles he's written, 15 of them have been elected Pick of the Day by this Community. He took second place in the B/RCS, our season-long writing contest spanning the length of last year's college football season. He has 198 fans.
But numbers simply do not tell the whole story with Dean. He is the epitome of a Creature who goes above and beyond to make Bleacher Report's community a true family.
Dean is one of the most talented writers on the site, but he never turns his nose up at anybody. In fact, it's exactly the opposite—he always takes the time to offer support and encouragement to his fellow contributors, responding to every comment that he receives on his articles and taking full advantage of bulletin boards and private email exchanges to build online friendships.
I've never met Dean in person, but I can attest to the fact that he has a gift with people. He knows how to reach through the computer screen and brighten your day with his words; his genuine selflessness and eagerness to help others is truly commendable.
The tragedy that has been delivered to the Herring family has made this Community GM shed tears in Bleacher Report's San Francisco office. It is the kind of story that makes you want to give up on the world—a four-year-old boy, suddenly snatched away from all of us for what appears to be no good reason.
In Dean's eyes, however, this is all part of God's master plan. I suppose if that's good enough for him, then it's good enough for me.
As saddened as I am by Josiah's death, I am deeply encouraged by the response of the Bleacher Report community. It assures me once again that we have a true family here on this Open Source Sports Network of ours.
As the news of Josiah began to spread, there was an outpouring of support from Ghost's fellow Creatures. For those of you who missed Cameon Shiflett's heartfelt tribute to Dean and his grandson—and the absolutely wonderful comments that followed—I ask you now to take a look.
In addition, I am also requesting that those of you who have been touched by Dean go a step further in your support. Upon the suggestion of the always thoughtful Mary Jo Buchanan, NASCAR Community Leader and a close friend of Ghost, I am organizing a gift to send to the Herring family on behalf of the Bleacher Report family to express our condolences.
I have Dean's address, so all I need are the names of those of you who would like to be included on the card. Simply respond to this post with "please include me" by Monday of next week, and I'll make sure you're on there.
Mary Jo has also suggested that I reach out to Dean and see if there are any charities he is aware of to help kids like Josiah—I know I am not alone when I say that I'd love to donate to such a cause. I will discuss this with Dean whenever he is back online and keep all of you posted in the comment threads below.
To Gray Ghost: From your entire Bleacher Report family, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your loved ones. Thank you again for helping to make this Community the special place that it is—we are always here for you.