The parents of a toddler who was snatched and killed by an alligator at a beach near an upscale resort in Walt Disney World celebrated the boy’s “first birthday in heaven” surrounded by family, friends, and supporters, in the family’s Omaha, Nebraska, community last Saturday. Hundreds of people gathered with Melissa and Matt Graves at a high school football stadium to honor the couple’s son, Lane, CBS News reports. It would have been Lane’s third birthday on Sept. 3.
The large crowd released thousands of bright blue balloons into the air at the Elkhorn South High School stadium and wore blue shirts in remembrance of little Lane who “brought so much joy” to the family.
“My baby — I owe it to honor him,” Melissa Graves said. “You’ll always be Mommy’s loving, sweet, baby boy. … We miss you, buddy, and we miss those hugs and kisses.”
Matt Graves said he appreciates the support he and his family have received following Lane’s tragic death. Back in June, the family was vacationing near the Seven Seas Lagoon while staying at the Grand Floridian Resort, when an alligator grabbed two-year-old Lane and dragged him into the water. Melissa and Matt tried to save their son, but were unable to pry him from the gator’s grasp. Lane’s body was found 15 hours later.
The event honoring Lane was organized by the Graves’ neighbors Brandi and Mike Miller. They said they just wanted to pay tribute to the family.
“I really saw an opportunity for the community to come together and wrap their arms around the family on this day. Blue is just the color that we chose to signify a little boy,” Brandi Miller told the Omaha World-Herald.
Matt and Melissa Graves handed out silver crosses with blue ribbons attached to prayer cards to the crowd and also shared Lane’s favorite treat, M&M cookies, with supporters. The couple, who also has a four-year-old daughter, said they do not plan on filing a lawsuit against Disney World.