'Not a Funeral': Fisher High School Junior Raymond Jumper's Life Celebrated by Community

Raymond Jumper

Raymond Jumper, a junior at Fishers High School, died unexpectedly on March 15. Photo Courtesy of Shelly Harder/Provided by Grace Church.

Raymond Jumper made sure no one was a stranger, always had a smile and was competitive in everything from schoolwork to sports.

He lacked an inside voice. Jumper, 17, knew how to bring people together, especially if it was for a game of pick-up basketball. He was confident, and always there to support teammates on the track and football teams at Fishers High School. He was a regular at the Fishers YMCA.

On Monday, Jumper — a junior at Fishers High School — died after he collapsed while playing basketball at the YMCA. On Thursday, a crowd gathered at Grace Church in Fishers, where he attended, to celebrate his life. His dad, Raymond Jumper, told the crowd that the autopsy showed his son, who he shared a name with, had an enlarged heart.

After the teen's death, Hamilton Southeastern Schools made its Crisis Response Team available to Fishers High School students and staff who wanted additional support and counseling. And his mom, Kenae Jumper, said that at first, there were no plans for a funeral, but the community and church wanted to honor him and have a celebration of his life.

“This is not a funeral,” Joey Christianson, associate pastor at Grace Church, said Thursday. “This is a celebration.”

Christianson went on to say that funerals can come with regrets. But celebrations, like Jumper, are full of smiles and laughs.

“Even if you only met Raymond one time,” Christianson said, "you knew him and he knew you."

Roughly a dozen speakers, mostly friends and teammates, took turns on the stage to tell their stories. With each one, there were laughs and jokes, but there were also stories of how he inspired his peers and his teachers with confidence and his kindness.

Toward the end of the event, his parents and sister Kenadi Jumper took the stage. His dad shared how much they’ll miss him, and his mom shared how much she’d learned that day about the lives their son had touched.

She later told IndyStar that Thursday night was the first time she'd heard the stories that his friends shared, and she was so grateful to have had her son for the years she did.

Kenae Jumper said she wanted to celebrate him, not grieve.

“I refuse to dishonor my son with tears,” she said, adding that since he was always trying to outdo others, she would outdo him with smiles.

He was always the first to be a friend

Several of his friends took the stage and spoke about the moments that Jumper befriended them.

“He made me feel like I wasn’t alone,” said friend and classmate Bryant Cochran, “He was the brightest soul in every room.”

Bryant told stories of playing basketball outside for hours, just talking and playing until well after dark, beyond the point where the ball and the hoop were even visible. He taught Jumper to fish and Jumper taught him to cook. But Jumper would always joke that he was the best at both.

Others talked about Jumper’s persistence to include everyone in games of basketball or cards – he’d never let someone sit on the sidelines, they said.

He was willing to teach too. He taught friends Jaden Sparks to play cards and Ryan Anderson to shoot a basketball. But Jumper stayed competitive.

Anderson remembered when Jumper taught him to play basketball. Not long after, Jumper was already teasing him by asking “do you play sports?”

But Jumper taught everyone around him that no one should be without a friend, Anderson said, adding that “social groups were nonexistent,” to Jumper.

Vinnie Harder, another friend of Jumper's, took the stage with a prop: a wooden letter V that Jumper had decorated with splatter paint and given to Harder for his birthday when they were in the eighth grade.

But that was only half the gift: The other half was a bar of soap, which Vinny said he first thought might have been a message that he smelled bad. But as he used it, he realized it had $20 inside.

Even as middle school boys, Jumper was creative and thoughtful, Harder said.

Jumper's friends smiled as the told funny stories, like the moped that Jumper would ride to pick up friends or how he would snap awake at the first sound of a bag of food opening. And they paused as they talked about his impact and the lessons he taught them about friendship, kindness and confidence.

Meeting Raymond was memorable

But it wasn’t just his peers that Jumper impacted. It was the adults in his life too. Tammy Snyder, a Fishers High School science teacher had Jumper in her biomed class last year when he was a sophomore. She is also the sponsor for Cru at Fishers, a Christian-focused student group that Jumper was a member of.

“Raymond loved an audience, even more the louder the laughs,” she said. And while sometimes she’d have to quiet the class down again, she said on stage that sometimes she just let everyone laugh.

Once she said Jumper challenged another student to a plank contest. Not only did he win, she said, he did it while talking the whole time.

Snyder said she learned from Jumper, too. Always polite, he would ask her questions, and the two would have a conversation, listening and learning from each other she said.

After she didn’t have him in as a student in class, he would still stop to say hi.

On the day he died, she said, he came by her room asking for lotion – joking with her that the amount was too small. "I'm a big guy and I have big hands," she remembered him teasing.

Snyder said she learned later in the week that he had a routine with multiple teachers, stopping to check in and asking for things like jolly ranchers and sanitizer wipes. Or even more lotion.

At Fishers YMCA, Jumper was a regular who knew the staff there. On Sundays, he'd stop to talk to Samantha Schnurr, a wellness advisor, she told IndyStar after the event. Not all teens would make a point to do that, she said.

Schnurr said Jumper would tease her and ask “Do you remember me?”

It was a joke of course, because she'd known him for years.

Chip Jefferson, who spoke to IndyStar ahead of the event and is the building supervisor at the YMCA, said he knew Jumper from when he'd come to play basketball or lift weights. They'd joke around but would also talk about sports and school too.

Jefferson said Jumper knew how to take control of organizing a basketball game and always wanted to play point guard.

"He walks in," Jefferson said, "and he knows no strangers."

Story Credit: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/local/hamilton-county/education/2021/03/19/fishers-high-school-student-raymond-jumpers-friends-celebrate-life/4719247001/

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