LINCOLN COUNTY, W.Va. (Mark Price/Charlotte Observer) - Eight-year-old Caleb Ray told his father he wasn't feeling right, but that didn't stop the boy from continuing his first day of practice with the Lincoln County Youth Soccer League.
Caleb died minutes later on that same field, surrounded by a stunned team of first- and second-graders. It happened Thursday in Ranger, West Virginia, an unincorporated community 140 miles northwest of the North Carolina state line.
"He told me, 'Daddy, I can't see. Daddy, I can't see,'" Caleb's dad, Ryan Ray, said in an interview with WSAZ. "He fell and started convulsing a little bit. I yelled over there to call an ambulance and ... I performed CPR on him until the ambulance arrived."
An official cause of death has yet to be released by the family. His mother, Kristy Ray, said Caleb's heart just stopped beating, despite the fact he never showed signs of medical issues before, reported WSAZ.
He was buried Monday, even as the small unincorporated town of Ranger tried to understand what had happened. A fundraiser on YouCaring has raised more than $10,200to help the family cover funeral expenses. That's $200 over the goal.
The boy's grandmother, Teresa Ray, said seeing his obituary only served to "make our nightmare real." Among the details: Caleb was the kind of kid who'd stop on his bike in their small town to talk to strangers, and he dreamed of being a doctor or an archaeologist.
"Our hearts are shattered," she posted on Facebook. "We will never understand why nor ever get over this devastating loss ... My family is beyond devastated."
She added that it has been equally tough for Caleb's school, Ranger Elementary. "The whole school and faculty are in complete shock," she posted on Facebook. "Those poor kids are having a really tough time dealing with this as we are."
In lieu of flowers, the family asked supporters to send donations "to fund future awareness and intervention of Caleb's medical condition," says the boy's obituary. The money will be used to buy defibrillators.
Commenters on social media have called the death heartbreaking, cruel and stunning. Many of those who have reached out to the family are complete strangers. A few have asked about the cause of Caleb's death, wondering if it's something other parents need to worry about. Those questions remain unanswered, however, as some speculate on social media that results of an autopsy are being awaited.
"I don't know you or your family, but I want you to know I have cried many tears for you," posted Heather Stewart on Kristy Ray's Facebook page. "I can't even begin to imagine your unbelievable pain. I also have a red headed little boy."
"I do not know your family, but heartbroken for your loss!" wrote Sharon Frank Whelen on Facebook. "I read on our local news in Cincinnati."