Warren Township Junior Josh Church dies of undetermined causes
On Wednesday, Nov. 16, Joshua Church, a junior at Warren Township High School, died at the age of 17 from undetermined causes.
Church was found to be unconscious on the ground during his swim practice for Cats Aquatics at Vernon Hills High School. After this, he was rushed to the hospital and died shortly after.
Cats Aquatics is a Lake County swim team that, according to their website, is “a local community of families and coaches with a shared passion for swimming, fitness and good sportsmanship.” During the offseason, it is common for swimmers from the district to continue to train with the club. As a result, students throughout District 128 had met Church and were impacted by his death.
LHS students, especially swimmers, were shocked and broken-hearted after the tragedy. “He was always full of joy,” recalled junior Michaela Olsen, “Without him, it was like, ‘Well, what do we do now?’” Olsen had met Church his first day on Cats when she was asked to introduce him to the group. Later on, she quit the team, but she still remembered Church and was shocked at his death.
Church formed relationships with various swimmers from Cats, among all grade levels. “Josh was extremely close with LHS, some of his best friends and teammates are from there,” his brother, Chad, explained over Facebook Messenger.
Church’s endearing personality led those around him to admire him. “If we were in the weight room, he would always be dancing to the music and would always make me laugh,” recalled senior Lucy Saucedo via Facebook Messenger.
Chad agreed: “He was nice to everyone and stuck up for the kids that needed it.”
This attachment caused much distress at the news of his death. Due to this reaction, LHS offered — and is continuing to offer — counseling for those who are having trouble coping with the news.
One of the largest responses at LHS to Church’s death was initiated by Eric Turner, a senior at LHS. Turner was very close with Josh, describing him as his “best swim friend” in an interview through Facebook Messenger. As a result, he was close to the Churches and wanted to help support his friend and his family as much as possible.
Turner designed t-shirts in Church’s honor in order to raise money for several causes. Parts of the money will go to the Church family, scholarship funds that have been created in Josh’s name, and the Village Church of Gurnee, according to Turner. There were 96 shirt orders, many of which were from LHS students and family. For every $10 shirt, $3 was donated, which means that in total, around $288 was raised.
“I felt that the shirts would be a great way to show unity,” Turner explained.
On Thursday, Dec. 8, the entire boys swim team wore the shirts for their senior night in honor of Josh. Senior night took place at LHS with Warren, Church’s high school, and was attended by his family. In addition to the shirts, blue and yellow caps with the initials JC and the signatures of the LHS boys were worn during the meet. The rationale behind this decision, according to Turner, was that “We felt that it would show … support for both the family and the team in lieu of the tragic event that had happened.”