Less than six months after Alcoa teen Hannah Tate lost her battle with cancer, her memorial at the Alcoa city bridge off Faraday Street was vandalized.
Mourners originally decorated the bridge with memories of Tate, her positivity and love of basketball.
"For somebody to be so unsympathetic as to what that memorial meant to the community, I thought that that was kind of disgraceful," Kelvin Richardson, founder of the group Hannah Smiles, said.
Richardson created Hannah Smiles as a way to empower youth in Tate's name. Much to his surprise, a Blount County teen felt compelled to make the wrong a right.
"I guess it was just natural," 16-year-old William Linney said. "I guess I had the supplies to make a change so I just did it."
As soon as he saw the vandalism, Linney covered the graffiti, leaving as much of the positive messages for Hannah as possible.
He said that bridge has a history.
"The bridge itself before it was a memorial was basically where kids from Alcoa and Maryville would talk back and forth like negatively to trash football and sports," Linney said.
Richardson was extremely grateful for the teen's actions, saying they exemplify the goal of Hannah Smiles.
"For him to take the initiative to go and cover up some of the ink that they had put on there, I thought it was just absolutely awesome," he said. "It's indicative of what we're trying to do."
Others took Linney's lead, adding 12-year-old Jajuan Latham's name to the memorial. Latham fell victim to fatal gang-related gunfire.
"It's now kind of a memorial not just for Hannah, but it is for like communities and passed ones," Linney said. "There is still specific things for her like the 24, that was her basketball number."
That basketball number was also shared by Fulton teen Zaevion Dobson, whose life was also ended too soon as he died shielding friends from gang-related gunfire.
Hannah Smiles said it is honored that Tate's memorial can also be a testament to other young lives lost.
"Even though the situation was a little different as to how they passed, our youth is our youth and we should support them in every way," Richardson said.
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