Will Norton’s impact and legacy ten years after the Joplin tornado

Joplin Tornado: Stronger Together

Joplin Tornado : Stronger Together

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JOPLIN, Mo. (KODE) – The families of 161 people still mourn the loss of loved ones.

One of those losses was Will Norton, who lost his life while driving home from his high school graduation with his father.

As his family still deals with his death, they’re comforted to know his legacy continues.

“As sad as we are, ten years later, you know, we’re sad every day, but, it does give us some peace and joy knowing that he’s left behind some goodness in this world,” says Mark Norton, Will Norton’s Dad.

One of the most visible parts of his legacy is the Will Norton Miracle field at the Joplin Athletic Complex. A baseball field where those with disabilities can play, named in Will’s honor.

“We go out there and volunteer. The kids that can go out there and play baseball that couldn’t have before and and like I say its just a beautiful for the city. We’re proud of the field and we love seeing the children out playing and having a good time and doing things. They look forward to Saturdays and I know with the last year its been tough with COVID, but this fall they’re going to start back up again and we’re anxious to come up and maybe do some volunteering. But yeah, that’s a, that’s a soft spot in our heart,” says Norton.

Then, there’s Will’s Place, which is a facility at Freeman Health System dedicated to helping children with behavioral health.

Will’s Wall, a Facebook page set up by former Kansas City Chief Kendal Gammon, who used to be a neighbor of the Norton’s.

“Our kids, we got to go to the pro games and one day he gave Will a game ball and then Will, later in life, he painted his room and put Kendal’s number 83 on the wall and had the game ball. After Will passed, Kendal hadn’t seen that and he came to the house and he walked up the stairs to the room and I think it brought Kendal to his knees. And he just said that after that, his speaking deal is who are you going to give your game ball to. Little things in life can change someone else’s life,” says Norton.

Will was accepted to attend Chapman University’s film school in California. Even though he was never able to attend, the school thought of Will as one of their students.

“When he passed, the put his name up on the wall for students and teachers that had passed. And he’s the only person that hadn’t attended there that they actually put his name on the wall for. Then they named a presidential scholarship after him, which is pretty much a full ride and that’s a fifty thousand dollar a year school,” says Norton.

A scholarship at Joplin High School was also named in his honor.

While all of this won’t bring Will back, these honors are a way for his family to remember how much he meant to those he came in contact with.

“I think Will impacted a lot of people and we’re proud of him. And, you know, these aren’t things to be celebrated. They are things to make the hurt less. And we miss him everyday,” says Norton.

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