‘Marco moments’ changed lives. Mourners heard how at funeral for boy struck during UK game

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Marco Shemwell’s death, aftermath

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WINCHESTER — Four-year-old Marco Shemwell, who was devoted to Batman, was a superhero in his last moments at University of Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

According to Dr. Scottie Day, interim chair of the University of Kentucky Department of Pediatrics, Marco received a “superhero salute” on the way to the operating room to donate organs.

“Everyone knew he was a superhero. He was Batman,” Day said during the boy’s funeral Monday at Calvary Christian Church in Winchester. “He was in his Batman pajamas and all the Children’s Hospital staff came out and gave him a superhero salute, because that’s a hero who showed what love is all about.”

Video was shown during Monday’s service of Marco’s dad, Ben Shemwell, leading the way as his son was wheeled to the operating room. Marco’s friends, family and hospital staff lined the hallway.

The boy’s parents determined organ donation would honor Marco’s love and “end his life saving the lives of other children,” Rev. Mike McCormick said during the child’s funeral.

Marco died Monday, Sept. 17, two days after he was struck by a car driven by Jacob Heil outside a UK football game. Heil, a UK freshman who has since been suspended by the university, has been charged with driving under the influence. Additional charges are possible.

About 300 people attended Marco’s funeral Monday and more watched a Facebook live stream the church provided. Among the attendees was UK football head coach Mark Stoops. Stoops and members of the team and coaching staff along with several others were named honorary pallbearers.

Besides Batman, UK football was another one of Marco’s loves. He often attended UK games and was set to play flag football this fall. Marco wanted to play linebacker and make tackles, McCormick said Monday.

When Marco told his mother his plans for his first football season, his mom told him he would not be able to make tackles. “That’s OK. They’ll learn,” chimed back the witty 4-year-old, McCormick said.

Marco didn’t do anything small, McCormick said. “Creative and full of wonder,” Marco embarked on life with big personality and a smile that would light up the room, the pastor remarked.

“His love for life, his family and Jesus was infectious,” McCormick said.

Marco Shemwell.jpg
Marco Lee Shemwell, 3 years old in this photograph, died on Monday after being struck by a car over the weekend on Cooper Drive. Provided by Shannon Andreas

Marco’s family coined a phrase, a “Marco moment,’ because just one moment with him would change your life, McCormick shared.

“When you’re stuck in traffic, or complaining about your work or tired from school, then you think of Marco and everything changes,” McCormick said.

While Marco was in the hospital, his family and hospital staff sang the hymn “Jesus Loves Me” together in worship that rang through the intensive care unit halls, Day said. That song — with the 4-year-old’s heartbeat in the background — was played during the funeral.

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