Finding your inner strength... it's something Blake Cognata learned at 17 years old.
"When people are dealt terrible circumstance they get very down, nasty, angry, he chose none of those paths," said Joseph Fantigrossi, Fairport High School Principal.
Blake spent his high school days shining on the Airport field in lacrosse and football, but all that came to a halt last February. Cognate was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare disease that affects the bones.
"He was an incredible young man who showed us how to deal with adversity with grace and dignity and I'm proud to have known him," said Fantigrossi.
Since his diagnosis the community rallied around Blake, until he lost his battle with cancer Saturday morning. Classmates and faculty held a vigil at Fairport high school in his memory, wearing t-shirts that read "find your strong," Blake's motto during his fight with cancer.
"Even when you're at your lowest point, you gotta dig down, you have to remember you got everyone looking out for you and dig down and find your strength," said Kevin Felice, senior at Fairport High School.
And word got around. Hundreds of social media posts led Minnesota Viking NFL player Adrian Peterson to call Cognata last week, offering words of encouragement. Later Saturday night, Blake's NFL icon and now friend tweeted, "Rest in peace, love you brother."
"What students learned is that when you face adversity you come together, support each other and act as a family," said Fantigrossi.
And while his classmates could never walk entirely in Blake's shoes, they said shaving their heads was a start.
"We know he lost his hair so...at first it was shocking for me I never thought I'd cut my hair that short but it means more to everybody in the community," said Jared Vintura, senior at Fairport High School.
The vigil ended by singing Happy Birthday, Blake would have turned 18 on Monday. Just before he passed away, the principal awarded Blake his high school diploma, making him a Raider for life.
The Fairport community has rallied together along with boxer Norman Beck who is also a Fairport grad to host a bootcamp fundraiser event Sunday.
The sessions will be held at F.I.T. at 465 W. Commercial Street in East Rochester.
People can show up for sessions held at 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. each for an hour long boot camp circuit training session as part of Blake’s “FIND YOUR STRONG” slogan. It is encouraged to wear yellow to show your support.
The donation is $20 and all proceeds with go to Blake’s family.
If you are unavailable to attend a class, people are encouraged to stop in and make a donation.
To register call Julie Earl at 406-7078. Spots are filling up fast!