Mom of Kzoo Co. shooting victim organizes tournament in his honor

Tyler Smith
A courtesy photo shows Tyler Smith playing soccer. (Staci James Photography)


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Laurie Smith used to love watching soccer because it meant her son Tyler was defending the goal, playing the game he loved.

Her husband Richard also loved the game and helped out as an assistant coach when Tyler was younger.

Now, watching the game is painful for Laurie.

Undated courtesy photos of Rich Smith (left) and Tyler Smith (right).

“I get back into the feeling of it and then without even thinking, I go to look for Tyler and he’s not there,” she explained.

She lost Tyler and her husband in the Kalamazoo area shooting rampage on Feb. 20, 2016.

Laurie says Tyler always enjoyed soccer and that’s what he would want people to do to remember him. That’s why she’s teaming up with Tyler’s old soccer coach to plan the Sunshine Tournament in his memory.

“(We want) to not let this dark moment define who we are as a community and who we are as people. So the Sunshine Tournament … just brings positivity and brightness and warmth to the community,” said coach Dan Bulley.

Bouquets of flowers sit outside the Seelye Kia dealership where Tyler and Rich Smith were shot and killed Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016. (Feb. 22, 2016)

Bulley remembers how Tyler grew as a person and an athlete who could have continued on with the sport on the collegiate level. He doesn’t think Tyler would want anyone to dwell on the pain of losing him.

“He would probably yell and scream at me like I did when I was pushing him through his running drills. He would say, ‘Keep fighting’ … echo back my message to just keep on fighting, keep your head held high,” Bulley said.

Multiple teams have already signed up to take part in the Sunshine Tournament, which is open to everyone, regardless of age, skill or gender.

The players may not know what it means to Tyler’s mom to see them out there, but she hopes they do.

“It’s going to be emotional as everything is, but I’m rather excited because to play in his honor, all these teams, they have no idea what that means to me and what that would mean to Tyler, for them to come out and forget what club they belong to on any other day and just get together and play in his honor,” Laurie explained.

The Dan Bulley Soccer School Sunshine Tournament is June 24 and 25. Registration is available on the tournament website until June 10 for teams of all ages.

The proceeds from the tournament will go to charity.