SAN DIEGO - Friends and family members gathered Wednesday to say a final goodbye to a rising motocross star from Scripps Ranch.
More than 900 people attended a memorial service at First United Methodist Church in Mission Valley for 16-year-old Jantz Grodzicki. On Facebook, thousands more from around the world have reached out to Grodzicki's family.
"Jantz is one of the most positive people I've ever known," his friend Hunter Weiss said during the memorial service.
"In my heart, you will always be a hero," said friend Naveen Dassanayake.
Grodzicki suffered major injuries during a motocross race near Gainesville, Fla., the day after Thanksgiving. He was taken off life support three days later.
Grodzicki's father, Chris, created a fitting tribute to his son and displayed it outside of the church. The display included a bike with wings attached.
As friends streamed up the center aisle to say their last goodbyes during the open casket service, photos flashed of a bright-eyed baby boy with an infectious smile who showed how much one can fit into 16 short years.
Lisa Grodzicki, Jantz's mother, shared her son's own words as a 7-year-old from an old journal.
"October 10th, 2003. My number is 96 … 96 rules the planet," Lisa Grodzicki read as the audience broke into laughter.
She then read what a friend had written about her son.
"Awesome, nice, delightful, respectful, everyone's friend and watchful," read Grodzicki, her voice breaking with emotion. "As you can see, Jantz has turned out to be all these and more. Love you Jantz."
With his son's casket just a few feet away, Chris Grodzicki had his own message for his Jantz: "My dearest Jantz … Did you know what an exceptional and extraordinary young man you were?"
He added, "You lived life in a way that was bigger than life … Son, you remember I always asked you, when are you going to give me a break? Well, I never expected a break like this … I'm just so thankful that you never let me slow for a minute."
He told the audience that Jantz is "an angel in heaven watching over all of us now," and he ended with, "May God bless you and Godspeed Jantz number 96."
Jantz Grodzicki started motocross at age 7. By the time he turned 16, he already had a sponsorship and was doing so well his family said that in about a year he would have put in enough race time to turn professional.