For Korley Davis, the long, hard battle is over. The Liberty School sixth grader, who would have turned 12 today, died Wednesday morning at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.
She was the daughter of Becky and Donald Davis of Wheel.
"Liberty School is in mourning today as we have suffered a great loss," said Principal Mike Novak in a written statement. "Korley was a fantastic student and, more than that, an amazing person. She was, and is, a role model for us all. Her influence touched so many lives in more ways than we will ever know. Her strength, attitude and enthusiasm were unmatched.
Plagued with lung problems, Korley. who already defeated leukemia in her short life, had been on a heart and lung bypass machine for some time, trying to build up her strength for a lung transplant. A donor had been found at one point, but Korley was determined to be too weak for the operation and was taken off the list, with assurances she would be placed back on the top as soon as her doctors felt she was strong enough.
Her plight captivated people from far and wide and captured the hearts of all who knew her -- and many who did not. A beautiful young lady with a big grin and mischievous eyes, she had an entire county showing its support with green and yellow ribbons everywhere and "Pray for Korley" signs on mailboxes, schools, churches and businesses. The night before her death, WTVF television in Nashville broadcast a moving report on her plight and on the community's response to it.
Novak said that parent volunteers were at the school Wednesday morning to give teachers time to speak to counselors, who were brought in from all over the county to work with both Liberty students and teachers.
"I am so proud of my teachers and all of the members of the Liberty family," said Novak. "They have displayed amazing leadership as we all get through this difficult time."
Novak said that Korley was clearly a leader among her peers at the school.
"She strengthened the school, and her classmates," he said. "Her always-positive outlook has given us all hope in dark times."
She was the school's sixth grade homecoming attendant.
"Korley is truly a blessing to us all and touched so many lives," said Michelle Bayne, Korley's cousin, in a written statement. "She left a lasting impression on everyone. Lord, you have truly gained a beautiful angel named Korley."
Last summer, as a result of the Shelbyville Central High School's Make-A-Wish Foundation fund drive, Korley was given the VIP treatment at the CMA Music Festival.
She even got to meet her favorite performer, Taylor Swift, visiting the singer on her tour bus.
Granting the wish brought particular satisfaction to SCHS students. The school has been active in the Make-A-Wish program for several years, but until Korley, the school had been assigned a series of out-of-county youngsters for whom to raise funds -- all deserving, certainly, but with no special connection to the community. In Korley's case, the school had not only a local connection, but a personal one, since Korley's mother Becky is a teacher at SCHS. The ceremony last May at which Korley was informed of her upcoming meeting with Taylor Swift drew hearty cheers from the SCHS students and faculty in attendance.
While the doctors were trying to wean Korley off of the heart and lung bypass machine, Korley's sisters, Khloe and Kaitlin, were at Liberty, making a short video segment showing the entire school's support. The original plan had been to send the video clip to ABC's "Good Morning America," hoping to have it air as part of the show's anniversary celebration, and its "Your Three Words" promotion.
The entire student body climbed into the bleachers by the football field. Although the school's colors are normally red and blue, on Thursday afternoon, they were green and yellow, the same colors of the ribbons being posted, the colors of hope and homecoming for the young girl.
Shirts, sweaters, dresses, even socks were bright green, Korley's favorite color. The younger students waved pom-poms made of green crepe paper while the older students held up the three words, familiar to all in Bedford County: "Pray for Korley."
As PTO president Kristy Weaver recorded the event in her video camera, the children, on cue, shouted the words out loud. The camera then zoomed in on a picture of the almost-12-year-old, grinning from ear to ear. The photo was held by her sisters.
"This school has been so supportive," said family friend Missy Landers at the rally. "She's a very special young lady."