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Foresthill boy’s legacy will be one of perseverance

Max Herlehy was full of joy, father says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A Foresthill boy who was his father’s best friend lost his battle with cancer this past week. Max Herlehy, 9, a Foresthill Elementary School student, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 2 years old, shortly after his family moved to Foresthill, said Jim Herlehy, Max’s father and Foresthill High School football coach. Over the years the Foresthill community has held a plethora of fundraisers in Max’s name including the most recent Bike Away from Cancer held earlier this month. Jim Herlehy said Friday his son had many loves during his lifetime. “I would say to categorize the type of boy he is, I would say imaginative, and very loving and a very honest boy,” Herlehy said. “As far as some of the other things he enjoyed doing most is he valued his friends a lot, and he loved dressing up and using his imagination whether it was the (Avatar: The Last) Airbender cartoons … or he was big superhero fan, so he was always dressing up as superheroes and making superheroes.” Herlehy said he was touched by the love Max’s community had for him. “There was just an outpouring of love and support from the community for Maxwell,” he said. “He was just one of those kind souls and big-hearted kids. He was always around. He was at my football practices and on the sidelines of my football games. The Wildfires were very important to him. It’s very touching the response we have always gotten from the community.” In a September 2009 Journal report, a former member of the Foresthill High School football team referred to Max as a family member. “He’s like a little brother to all the football players,” said Jim Anderson, a 2007 graduate who played linebacker and running back. “Last season, one of our players got hurt, and Max was running around grabbing the medical tape and making sure everything was OK.” Fundraisers began for the “I Love Max” fund when Max relapsed at age 5. “Anybody who’s met (the Herlehys) just dropped anything they were doing to help,” Anderson said in 2009. “When you hear of something happening to, especially Jim, who’s like a small-town celebrity, we all wanted to help.” On Friday Foresthill resident Margie Miller, 12, had 13 inches of her hair cut and donated to Locks of Love in memory of Max, who passed away Wednesday. “I have been wanting to get my hair cut for awhile, and I figured it would be a great cause,” Miller said. “I just thought that it would be a good thing to do.” Miller said she heard about Max in the local community, and the message she wanted to send to Max’s family is that he is in a better place and is not suffering anymore. Herlehy said Friday a memorial service hadn’t been planned yet, but one thing was sure to be included. “We have decided when we have it it’s going to be something where everyone dresses up,” he said. “It was that important to him.” Herlehy said Max would have a message he would want to leave behind. “My guess would be somewhere along the lines of stay positive and persevere,” Herlehy said. “He never felt sorry for himself and never let those situations dictate his attitude. He was always a very positive person who looked on the bright side of things and looked toward the positive of people. So, I would say his message or his legacy would be one of persevering. And just joy and happiness. He was full of joy.” On Friday Jim Roberts, principal of Foresthill Elementary School, said community members’ lives were enriched by Max. “Max was an absolute inspiration to our school and community,” Roberts said. “The lives he touched in his short time with us were enriched by his love of life and indomitable spirit. The outpouring of love and affection we have seen since his passing are indicative of the impact this young man had on us all. We were all privileged to have known and loved him. As much as we will miss him, we also know he is now in a better place.” Max is survived by his father and mother, Jamie, as well as younger sister, Baylor, 7, and brother, Sam, 6. Herlehy said it was hard to communicate everything that Max was. “I would say the toughest thing would be to try to summarize your child in a paragraph,” he said. “There was just so much more. He was my best friend.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com