Rootstown honors high school student who died Valentine’s Day

Kaitlynn LeBeau

Rootstown mourns death of high school student from on Vimeo.

It has been an emotional week for the Rootstown community as it pays tribute to a 17-year-old Rootstown High School junior who died over the weekend.

“Even if you weren’t close friends with her, she went out of her way to always make you happy,” said Haley Whitacre, a student at Rootstown High School, who couldn’t hold back tears while talking about one of her closest friends. “She just knew how to bring out a smile in everybody. That’s what she was best at.”

Friends said, even if people only knew Bailey Simons for one day, they could never forget her.

“She just has so much emotion for everyone,” Jenna Mahood, another of Bailey’s friends, said. “She was just passionate for everything she did.”

Simons shared some of her passions, cheerleading and gymnastics, with her students.

“She coached gymnastics for little girls because that was her favorite thing to do,” Whitacre said. “I know she impacted them a lot.”

Simons was a coach at Top Floor Gymnastics & Dance Center LTD in Ravenna. Top Floor created a GoFundMe page that will be open until the end of February for donations for funeral expenses.

Over the weekend, news spread that the teenager had been in a car accident on Valentine’s Day.

Simons was driving southbound on a snow-covered South Main Street near the intersection of Samoa Drive in Green around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, according to local news outlets. She was the only person in the 2006 Chevrolet Cavalier when she lost control of the car, went off the road and crashed into a tree. Simons was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said the weather conditions are to blame. The Summit County Sheriff’s Office said Simons was wearing a seatbelt, and drugs and alcohol are not believed to be factors.

In a time of grief, hundreds packed the Rootstown High School gym Monday night for an informal vigil. Many, wearing purple – Simons’ favorite color.

“I’ve been here 11 years and that’s the one thing about Rootstown, it’s very tight-knit, a very close community,” Rootstown Superintendent Andrew Hawkins said. “It was a wonderful turnout and great tribute to Bailey and her family.”

The room was filled with tears and smiles, friends and strangers comforting one another.

“Something like this happens and everyone comes together,” Whitacre said. “People who don’t even know her are here tonight just to show their support.”

Whitacre and Mahood said they’re also overwhelmed by how many people bought Bailey Strong T-shirts. The girls designed the tribute shirts and began selling them Sunday. Within 24 hours, they had sold more than 300.

“It just went so viral,” Mahood said. “They just kept coming in and coming in — just orders and orders.

“We’re all here for each other no matter what and losing Bailey will definitely be the hardest thing we will go through,” Mahood said. “We’ll all get through it together because our community and school is just one big family.”

Contact Kaitlynn LeBeau at [email protected].