New life to remember life lost - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New life to remember life lost

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Wednesday friends and family are celebrating the life of a Waterloo teen who lost his fight with cancer. It's part of Project 52 -- the trees to remember program. About four years ago, Dustin Blythe's son Treye was murdered in Cedar Falls. In the days afterward, Dustin's friends donated trees to plant in Treye's honor. Last year, Dustin began doing the same for other families who have lost a child.

"The thing about a tree is, it's a living, growing organism. It's something positive. You can watch it grow year after year after year," said Blythe.

"Just driving down the street will help me remember. When the tree grows, it will help us remember how Adnan would have grown if he was here," said Adnan's sisters, Fahreta & Edita Malkic.

It's a new life, to remember a life lost. Nearly one year ago, the Malkic Family said goodbye to their son and brother, Adnan.

"With time, it's not that you get over it, but you kind of move on. And you know he's always going to be with you, so it gets easier," shared Dzenajla Saric, Adnan's friend.

"He said not to cry, so we're staying strong," his sisters said.

"I didn't cry because before he left, he didn't want anyone to cry. But it's just emotions that get to you that you can't stop," added friend Adia Gackovic.

A few tears were wiped away as Adnan's tree is planted. He was class president, a basketball player, and an academic all-star. But most of all, he made everyone smile.

"It's really hard playing basketball and football without him. You know he's not going to be playing with us, but he's always watching," said friend Ross Jensen.

"He was so funny, he was just amazing. He would help you with anything. He was a really good guy," said Gackovic.

His father, Rudy Malkic, writes Adnan's name on the shovel. It's the same shovel each parent holds as they fill in the ground around their child's tree. And although there is a language barrier, Blythe doesn't need words to know what this moment meant to Rudy.

"I look at Rudy's eyes, and... he just knows what I feel, and I know what he feels," said Blythe.

The Malkic Family actually lives right down the street from Hoover Middle School. So they'll see the tree just about every day. Many of his friends say they'll stop by at least once a week -- they promise not to let their memories of Adnan fade as time goes by, and this tree will go a long way to help them remember.

Last year, Project 52 planted nine trees in Iowa and surrounding states. Friends are in the process of planting another tree at Hoover Middle School in honor of Rasema Kajtazovic later this year.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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