(WBIR - Sevier County) Many were rooting for Regen Morris, a 12-year-old who battled brain cancer for more than a year. Regen's fight ended Christmas morning.
Regen's father, Dan Morris, recalls the 12 years he spent with his son.
"Regen was a wonderful, wonderful son. He was an honor roll student, he loved to read, he loved to write, he's a great athlete. [He played] tennis, basketball, soccer. He was actually the Most Valuable Player of his basketball team the last year he played," he described.
Regen was unexpectedly diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer in November 2012. Since then, tens of thousands of people have been rooting for Regen, showing their support on a Facebook page named "Rootin' for Regen".
"He had three areas of tumors that were all targeted with heavy, heavy radiation," said his father.
The Facebook page has pictures of people from all over the country holding signs saying they are rooting for Regen's recovery. And as of Thursday, Gatlinburg's Best Western's business sign read, "Balconies Over Stream Deluxe Suites Rootin For Regen".
"From day one we were always rooting for Regen as a community and now that he's gone, we're feeling the loss as a community too. It really hit home with us just because I knew him personally and it's kind of sad that he's gone," said Mac Ogle of Gatlinburg.
Although Regen's passing has saddened many, Dan Morris said his son had been uncomfortable his last few weeks on Earth as he struggled to breathe.
Morris said on Christmas Eve Regen let his relatives know he was ready.
"My wife was with him and she asked him if he was ready, if it was time, and he was able to squeeze her hand. That gave us a great peace," Morris said.
Now that Regen's journey has ended, his father wants those who were rooting for Regen's recovery to join someone else's journey.
"Our message would be for people to help the next family, to help the next person, because unfortunately there will be another, and another, and another."
Services for Regen will be Saturday, December 28, 2013 at First Baptist Church (317 Parkway, Sevierville, TN 37862). Arrangements are with Atchley Funeral Home in Sevierville.
The family will receive friends 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.followed by a funeral service at 6:00 p.m. Rev. Dan Spencer and Rev. Bryon W. Fortner will officiate. A private family burial will occur.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions be made to the family of Preston Gentry, another student at Pi Beta Phi Elementary who is battling childhood leukemia, at 737 Waterfall View Lane, Sevierville, TN 37876.