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Dai-Jon Parker, Milton High School graduate: life tragically cut short | News

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Dai-Jon Parker, Milton High School graduate: life tragically cut short

MILTON, Ga. (WXIA) -- A huge, extended family of loved ones across the country is mourning the loss of a star student-athlete from Milton High School.

Dai-Jon Parker, Milton High School Class of 2011, drowned Thursday in an accident on a lake near his college, in Indiana.

Such promise, cut so short, say all those who knew him.

In the four years since Dai-Jon graduated from Milton High School -- he was part of Milton HS's state championship basketball team of 2010, his Senior year -- he's worked hard to conquer the world and live his dreams.

Those in Milton and Cumming and throughout Metro Atlanta who knew Dai-Jon say he had "It" factor -- that combination of talent and skill and character and healthy ambition and love of people that can lead to success in life.

Nothing, it seems, could have stopped him.

But Thursday, Dai-Jon drowned in an accident while tubing and boating with friends at a lake near his school, the University of Indianapolis.

He was not wearing a life vest.

And hearts across the country are breaking.

Friday evening, a teacher, a coach, a classmate from Milton High School, and their families, fought back tears speaking of how they were as close to Dai-Jon Parker as a brother, a son.

Coach Craig Bennett said that in his career in education and athletics, he always hopes he can have a positive impact on his students. Dai-Jon, Bennett said, had an impact on him.

"You know, we had a lot of people come from all over just to watch him play," coach Bennett said. "And the biggest thing that stands out to me is, you would watch his athletic ability, but you fell in love with the kid within two minutes. I nicknamed him Sunshine, and he called me Sunset because he said I was older. But that's what he was, he was sunshine to a lot of people. And if you met him, that smile was something you wouldn't forget."

Teacher Kim Weldy said Dai-Jon was always reaching out to everyone around him with a word of encouragement, a note with an inspiring quote, a smile --

"I mean, his smile, his attitude, his love of life.... He was always just full of life. I don't know anyone that loved living life the way he did. It was all from his heart. And he was such a fine example for my boys. And a great role model for them, I couldn't ask for anything better."

They all praised Dai-Jon's mother, who is now in Louisiana, as "phenomenal," saying that everything he was, he was because of her.

This was a student athlete who excelled in class, and at basketball, football and baseball. He received multiple college scholarship offers. He chose Vanderbilt, then transferred to Indianapolis.

And, said Milton High School Athletic Director Gary Sylvestri, Dai-Jon continued to impress all he met along the way.

"He was a superstar among many, but his leadership and his character are what we saw," Sylvestri said. "Dai-Jon just had that leadership quality, and that big smile.... Not only just his talent and skill, but the person he was, 'cause let's face it, you're recruiting character, as well.... He's by far touched lives" at Milton, Vanderbilt, the University of Indianapolis, Sylvestri said.

"It's hard to put into words, wrap your head around, the tragedy. But what a fine young man he is, and was.... His legacy lives on forever."

Friends have set up a fundraising campaign to help the Parker family with funeral expenses: