Brandon Shima was the kind of kid who connected with his friends and family.
A football player and a popular student, his friends said he was well on his way to greatness.
His sudden death at age 16 in November stunned his parents and friends and left his father devastated.
So Keith Shima wanted to find a way to reconnect with his son and keep his spirit alive. Shima and his family founded the Brandon Shima Foundation Against Bullying.
"I was so lost I had to find a way to keep him alive,'' said Shima, whose only child died of natural causes after suffering from a reoccurring MRSA infection. "He was always a super kid. Everything he was to me, I have found he was tenfold to others.''
Brandon's sudden death rattled his fellow Cardinal football players and his junior-high classmates, some of whom waited three hours at his funeral services to say goodbye.
"We started this foundation because I honestly didn't know what else to do to keep his spirit alive,'' Shima said. "He told me once he was against bullying and with all the recent development at school, I thought the foundation would be a good way to remember Brandon and help others as well.''
Fellow students have rallied around the cause. When Mentor played at District 1 semifinals several weeks ago, they carried Brandon's football jersey - No. 38 on their helmets. Even some former opposing teams like Solon wore stickers in his memory.
In the high school cafeteria, fellow students are selling $3 red bracelets that say "'Stay Connected' -- Brandon Shima RIP." Many of his close friends still stop at Shima's house, where a memorial has been erected with flowers, cards and posters depicting Brandon's achievements on the football field, at home and with friends.
"His friends all told me that Brandon was kind of the protector of the group. He watched out for everybody,'' the elder Shima said. "During his funeral we drove by the school and the entire class stood outside with their hands raised high in salute as we drove by.''
The memorials plastered on his dining room walls are full of happy, warm memories of the boy everyone seemed to love.
"We always thought you would be the one who would someday change the world and now you have,'' said one heartfelt memorial.
Shima said Brandon never experienced bullying at school but had friends who did. Brandon spoke recently to one who was particularly troubled by a bully and asked Brandon for advice. Brandon told his father then that someone needed to stand up for the kids, who felt disconnected.
"Our motto for the foundation is 'Connect and Protect,' '' Shima said.
Since the family started organizing the foundation, they have gathered cards and donations from across the country, some as far away as Nevada.
Many of the kids who gathered at Brandon's memorial shared personal tales of bullying.
"They all said the same thing: If one person had stood up for them it would have made difference.'' Shima said.
Mentor Schools have been in the limelight in recent months with several lawsuits filed against the school after two students committed suicide. Some of the parents blamed school bullies for their children's depression.
Shima said that while the school does have programs available he wants to see something more proactive. He suggested getting teens involved and providing them with T-shirts. These students could be protectors or connectors, willing to either step in or listen to bullied victims.
Shima said the foundation has grown substantially with a Facebook page dedicated to Brandon that has attracted followers as far away as Russia. The family estimates they have about $6,000 already and haven't even opened many of the envelopes. Anyone wanting to donate can contribute at any to the Brandon Shima Foundation Against Bullying.
Shima said he hopes to see the foundation expand into other schools.
Friends and family said it is what they feel Brandon would have wanted - a way to protect students and connect the community at the same time.
"This is our way of making sure his spirit lives on,'' his father said.