Funeral services for Cole Hayden, a seven-year-old boy who was the off-field inspiration for the Kansas football team while he battled cancer this season, took place Friday morning at Sacred Heart Church.
Cole — the son of Shanda Hayden, who is an academic and career counselor for KU football — was diagnosed with undifferentiated sarcoma just before the 2016 season. KU coach David Beaty and the team dedicated the opening game to him, and after that, players made hospital visits to see Cole while also frequently wearing yellow #TeamCole wristbands around campus.
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Around 500 people attended Cole’s funeral Friday, a crowd so large that many had to overflow to the choir loft above. Those present included Beaty, athletic director Sheahon Zenger, offensive coordinator Rob Likens, defensive coordinator Clint Bowen and many KU football players who were able to make it following finals week.
Football, which was the sport Cole loved most, was a major theme of the service. Signed jerseys — like one from the New York Giants’ Eli Manning — were displayed throughout the church, while many friends and family members wore football shirts and jerseys at the family’s request.
Cole died Saturday after his fight with the rare form of cancer. Beaty released a statement the next day on his Twitter account.
“Our hearts are broken for his amazing parents, Shanda and Steve,” the message read in part. “The courage Cole showed us every single day is what will inspire us to move forward.”