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Grieving homecoming queen makes father's dream come true
Alaina Ricker - photo by Photo by Birk Herrath
He was incredibly proud of her.
Christi Ricker, mother of South Effingham homecoming queen Alaina Ricker

GUYTON — Even though her crown was bright and shiny, it didn’t — it couldn’t — reflect the significance of the emotional occasion.

Alaina Ricker made her father’s fervent wish for her come true.

In a ceremony that featured a heavy mix of tears and applause, Alaina was named South Effingham’s homecoming queen during halftime of Friday’s football game against Pierce County. The well-received announcement came just six days after her dad, Brian Ricker, was killed in a traffic accident in Pulaski County.

The head-on collision also claimed the lives of her boyfriend, Jake Sapp, and family friend Jeffrey Stites. 

“She fulfilled her daddy’s last request when she crossed the field (during the halftime festivities),” said Christi Ricker, Alaina’s mother.  

Mrs. Ricker’s broken heart was buoyed by the reaction to her daughter’s moment of triumph.

“After she was crowned, hearing the strong support from both sides of the field was very uplifting,” she said. “I was thankful she was able to go through with it. Alaina said she, too, just felt so supported by everyone.”

Mr. Ricker had encouraged Alaina to seek a spot on the homecoming court since she was in the sixth grade. He did the same thing with her older sister, Alexis, but to no avail.

Realizing, as a senior, that she had reached the final opportunity for her father to escort her across the lush turf at The Corral, Alaina finally acceded to his wishes. Still, she had considered leaving the fate of his objective to her baby sister, Amelia, born just a few months ago.

“... Brian said he would need a walker (to get across the field) by the time (Amelia) was able to participate” Christi said. “He said by that time Jake would have to walk her.”

Mr. Ricker never doubted that Alaina had the makings of a homecoming queen.

“He had great confidence in her because she is a friend to everyone,” Mrs. Ricker said. “She loves people and she is a great role model. He wanted everyone to know that she belonged to him.

“He was incredibly proud of her.”

In a testimony to her caring nature, Alaina invited her grandfather, Kenneth Ricker, and Sapp’s dad, Keith, to serve as her homecoming escorts.

“Her choosing to walk with (her grandfather) and Jake’s daddy had to make (Brian) and Jake smile,” Mrs. Ricker said. 

Alaina used the emotional and physical support of the men to get through the trying ordeal.

“In the moments leading up to the announcement (of the queen), I was thinking about how deserving all the girls were on the field,” Mrs. Ricker said, “but I was also thinking about how much heartbreak Alaina had experienced this week and I didn’t know how much more she could endure. It was very hard to hear them call her daddy’s name during the walk.

“Alaina was thinking about her dad and Jake watching her.” 

Mrs. Ricker is happy Alaina was able to withstand the surge of feelings and memories that enveloped her.

“She was overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions but I think she is ultimately glad she did it,” Mrs. Ricker said. “Having her school and community support her the way they did was a blessing. She knew they were praying for her and it helped her tremendously get through this event.”

Mrs. Ricker admitted to being overwhelmed, too.

“We would like to express a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to everyone within our community and other communities who have reached out to us and prayed for us and the other families involved in last week’s tragic accident,” she said. “We are truly blessed to live here and be surrounded by so many wonderful people.”