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Ozarks School & Community Start the Grieving Process Following Basketball Player's Sudden Death

Spokane, MO Junior, 17-year-old Forrest Varney collapsed during practice Wednesday morning. The Christian County Coroner says he had a pre-existing heart condition.

February 16, 2012|Reporter: Lauren Matter, Photographer: Ben Knaup |,

17-year-old Forrest Varney will be laid to rest this weekend.

Varney collapsed during basketball practice Wednesday morning.

The Christian County Coroner says he died of a pre-existing heart condition.

Counselors, teachers, coaches even local pastors are taking extra time to talk to students.

High School Principal Jim Millsap says now that the initial shock is over, the grieving process has begun.

Flags are at half staff outside Spokane High School and they'll stay that way for the next four days, to remember the life of Forrest Varney.

"He was such a good kid, very full of life," says Principal Millsap. "I can remember him walking the hallways with that big smile."


Millsap says the junior basketball and baseball player loved to compete and if you ask anyone, he says no one could say anything bad about Varney.

"He always had a smile on his face. He would do anything that needed to be done," Millsap recalls.

Millsap asked us to respect the privacy of his students.

But many of them are turning to Facebook to talk about their classmate, teammate and friend who died too soon.

Cardiologist John Hawkins says the pre-existing heart condition that led to his death, surprisingly isn't as common as some would think.

"People at the University of Washington looked at media reports and death certificates in a study and figured out it's 1 in 44,000 student athletes a year that dies a sudden death," says Hawkins.

He says certain types of athletes are more prone, and the largest group is basketball players.

But even with the answer to what caused Varney's death, Principal Millsap says it will still take a while for things to get back to normal at his high school.

"We're trying to address individual needs in individual ways," Millsap states.

Varney will be laid to rest on Sunday at 1:30 at Spokane High School.

His visitation will be from 12:30-1:30.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to the Forrest Varney Memorial Scholarship Fund, in care of Spokane School.

Donations can be sent to 167 Kentling Avenue, Highlandville, MO 65669.

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