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Mother works to help grieving families in memory of teenage musician

Raymond Cruz
Posted at 6:56 PM, Jun 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-09 19:56:00-04

NOLENSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Sometimes a bond can form from very painful, shared experiences. Sometimes people can take their hardest days and use them to help others.

High school junior Penelope Pennington never met teenage musician Raymond Cruz, but she can tell some things about him just from his videos.

"He really loved music and connecting people to music and showing how amazing it can be," she smiled, watching a video of Raymond singing one of his originals. "You can feel the energy through the phone and how happy he was to perform this."

Penelope loves to sing too, something that was always encouraged by her mom Kristie.

"Grey's Anatomy, that was one of our favorite shows," she smiled. "The quote is, 'you're my person.' The meaning of the quote in that show is, that's the person that's always going to be there for you and supporting you no matter what. We actually went to the Cher concert. I remember her belting all the Cher songs."

"She was diagnosed with glioblastoma, which is a type of really rare brain cancer in February 2017."

Penelope's mom died from that cancer. Her death came just months after Raymond died from a form of bone cancer.

In this time since, Penelope has met a friend, Raymond's mother Blandina.

"He would practice to the kids on the oncology floor," Blandina smiled, watching a video of Raymond. "By the end, he'd be like, 'c'mon! Sing along with me!"

"That's sweet," said Penelope.

Before he died, Raymond launched the Shine Your Light Youth Vocal Competition. Blandina is continuing the competition to do something special for Vanderbilt.

"It will be some kind of grieving program once your child leaves," said Blandina. "The funds this year are going to start the very first Raymond Cruz Palliative Care. That's to have counseling not only for the parents but for the siblings."

The winner of the first Shine Your Light musical theater scholarship is Penelope.

These are two friends, one who lost a mother and one who lost a child. They know they can do something for others.

"When I met her, it was definitely magic," said Blandina. "There was something that I feel is forever. We lost our loved one, and we still will share their memory. It's nice to know someone knows my sadness and my happiness."

For more on Raymond's Ray of Light Foundation, visit here.