ICYMI: UNH Cheerleader Honored Her Friend Who Passed in the Most Heartwarming Way
Aliyah Leighton from Dover, New Hampshire, lost a very close friend at a tragically young age. She just honored him in the most heartwarming way.
Andre Schaeffer and Aliyah used to run a mile together almost every day for the Dover, New Hampshire, high school varsity cheerleading team. Every single mile, Aliyah tried so hard to beat Andre (and he knew it, too), but she never could until ONE practice where he was late and started running after everyone. Finally, Aliyah was the first one done. She knew that was the closest she would ever get to beating him. Even though she was never technically able to beat him, he always told her she was a track star because she was one of the few people that could keep up with him. The two had a special friend ship, one that Aliyah will never forget.
Andre took his own life and passed away on June 12, 2021. This profound loss left a huge hole in the hearts of Andre's family, friends, teammates, teachers, and the Dover, New Hampshire, community as a whole.
Aliyah decided to honor Andre the best way she knew how: running a mile every single day for a year. And she did it. There were days she could barely get out of bed, and the only thing she did all day was run a mile for Andre. There were days she ran in the pouring rain, snow, ice, etc. (it's New Hampshire, the weather isn't always kind and cooperative!). There were days she was so crazy busy and the only time she had to run the mile was at 11:50 at night. But guess what? SHE DID IT! Last month, Aliyah completed her 365th mile in Andre's honor, and ran a bonus mile with Andre's Army to make it 366!
People have asked Aliyah what she is going to do now that the 365 days are over, and she's not entirely sure. But she knows one thing, she isn't done spreading awareness for suicide prevention and speaking up about mental health. She wants to forever tell Andre James Schaeffer’s story, because he’s a legend that will never ever be forgotten. I want to thank Aaliyah for reaching out to me and sharing her story, as well as the following photos.
Here is Andre pointing up to the sky, which is something he did when he walked on to the cheerleading competition mat:
This photo is from July 19, 2019, when Andre and Aliyah would wake up before 7am to run a mile together:
This photo is from June 12, 2023, when friends and family came together for their annual family dinner to honor Andre. They all walked/ran her bonus mile with her, and it made her so happy to see everyone come together like this. They call themselves "Andre's Army".
And finally, this is a photo of Aliyah and Andre's mom holding a picture of Andre. Aliyah is so proud of her for everything she has done over the last few years.
Aliyah, You are carrying on Andre's legacy in such a touching and important way. He is somewhere smiling down, proud as heck that you ran all those miles for him (even though he could have run them faster! haha). Keep up the great work <3
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website. Resource information is provided for free as well as a chat message service. To speak directly to a professional, call 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone and help is available. Every life is important.