Balloons were her thing. She always had a balloon in her hand.

Gabriella Curry was the little girl who would come into the preschool lunch room excited to eat her sack lunch. A ray of sunshine, full of joy and kindness, Gabriella loved everyone around her.

“She didn’t care what you were wearing. She didn’t care if you were living in a box. You were a person. She would just come up to you and hug you,” Gabriella’s mother, Cheyenne Curry, said. “For some reason, she just knew what to do, when to do it and how to do it just to make you feel better about yourself.”

Gabriella was 4 years old when she was struck and killed on the sidewalk by an SUV driven by Columbia Police Officer Andria Heese on Jan. 4 outside of Battle High School.

To honor her memory, Gabriella’s family and friends stood outside the high school and released pink balloons Friday, exactly 10 months after her death. The family decided to use pink balloons because Gabriella was wearing a pink jacket when she passed.

“It’s just something for the family,” Gabriella’s father, Aaron Curry, said. “It’s something that we need to do in memory of her to help us heal.”

The family plans to continue this tradition of releasing balloons on the fourth day of each month. Aaron Curry says he hopes it will get easier each time they come together.

“In order for us to try to live better day by day, this is just kind of what we needed to keep her closer,” Cheyenne Curry said.

Cheyenne and Aaron Curry were joined by 10 others, including Gabriella’s siblings: Tristan, 10; Myra, 7; and Aminah, 2. Hannah Webster, the adopted “big sister” of the Curry children, also came to honor her friend.

Hannah, a 15-year-old Battle High School student, remembers fondly sitting and talking with Gabriella and her siblings on the bus. Hannah took the role of a big sister and comforted the children on difficult days. She said she hopes that the legacy of her sweet friend continues.

“We felt like she needed to be known, whether you knew her or not. She needs her story out there,” Hannah said. “Obviously, she shouldn’t have gone this way, and she should still be here, but God has plans.”

  • I am a fall 2019 state government reporter. I am studying data journalism. Reach me at or at 816-244-7488 with story tips and ideas.

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