West Genesee shook by loss of high school junior to cancer

About 1,500 students, staff and community members rallied at Tuesday's West Genesee boys' varsity basketball game in support of a friend they were not ready to lose. Craig Rienhardt, 17, died at his home in the town of Onondaga early the next morning after battling cancer.

Superintendent Chris Brown said students and staff first heard the news at 6 a.m. on Wednesday Jan. 12.

"Our school really is a family, and when we lose somebody, it is really like we're losing one of our own kids," Brown said, adding that for a lot of the students, it's their first look at "not being invincible."

The school community took Wednesday to grieve, and by Thursday had begun to think of ways to help memorialize Craig and reach out to his family. Craig left behind his parents, Mark and Ellen; two sisters, Sarah and Karen; his brother, Eric; and several aunts, uncles and cousins.

"It's a very personal time where you realize how close of a family you are, even though you're in a building that has 1,700 students," Brown said.

Austin Gambino, Peter Johnson and Lindsey Sweet, friends and classmates of Craig, led a blue ribbon campaign during the school day Tuesday Jan. 11, and organized a 50/50 raffle that raised well over $1,000 during the first half of the game against Corcoran.

"I really think that all in attendance felt they would have an opportunity to give him what they raised, and they didn't have a chance to do that," Brown said.

Fans of both West Genesee and Corcoran banned together for Craig during the game, which was won by West Genesee 67-64.

"I'm very, very appreciative of the Corcoran fans who came out and supported him as well ... that just says a lot about our community," Brown said.

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