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5-year-old Wenatchee boy remembered for his smile

EAST WENATCHEE -- A house crammed with a hundred family members and friends can seem strangely quiet with one person missing.

Especially when the one not there was the mischief maker, the comedian, the little brother who taunted his older siblings; the bright-eyed towhead who was stubborn and tough, yet loving and gentle, and was the "baby" of a tightknit family.

That was Kaiden Henley. The 5-year-old boy was killed last Saturday when he was struck by an errant motorcycle at a race in Ephrata.

"He always had a smile on his face," Shelby Henley said of her youngest son.

"He had bright blue eyes and long eyelashes."

On Tuesday afternoon, the Henleys sat in their backyard sharing stories about their "little man." The memories flowed freely, often accompanied by laughter and a chorus of agreeing yeses from friends and family who surrounded them.

Kaiden was supposed to start kindergarten next week at Cascade Christian Academy in Wenatchee, where he went to pre-kindergarten last year. He liked to play soccer, watch Wenatchee Wild hockey games, go for hikes and sing.

He loved animals, going to the waterslides in Chelan, and putting together puzzles. He was just learning to swim and had recently started doing flash cards with his brother, Dominic.

"He loved looking for bugs," said his father, John, who sat quietly through most of the interview.

"He was always doing funny things with his fingers," his mom said, laughing as she tried to make a peace sign just the way Kaiden would do it.

Shelby's best friend, Jamie Lane, added, "He was a pretty fearless little kid. He would always do it and think later."

Last Saturday, the family was at Ephrata Raceway Park for one of five motocross events held there each summer. Kaiden's brothers, Austin, 13, and Dominic, 7, were both supposed to race. Dominic had already done his race, but Austin was still waiting for his.

The Henleys and their friends had set up canopies along the track, which they typically did during motocross events. There they connected with friends and other riders and had a front-row seat to the action.

Shelby Henley said the family has been attending motorcycle events for 11 years. "We've done it our kids whole lives," she said. "Kaiden grew up with it."

Kaiden and several other children were riding pedal bikes and scooters along the edge of the track as the motorbikes were racing.

Shelby remembers that Kaiden rode up to her on his small bike and looked up at her and smiled. She smiled back. Then he rode his bike toward a pile of tires at a corner of the track where his older cousin was sitting.

They were watching a skilled adult division when one rider -- John Smith of East Wenatchee -- lost control going over bumps on a straight stretch and was thrown from his bike.

At that moment, Kaiden was sitting on his bike looking up at his cousin and calling her name.

He was struck in the side by the full force of Smith's motorcycle.

"I know he didn't suffer at all," Shelby said, choking back tears. "The coroner told me it was instant. It is comfort to know that."

The response from the community since the accident has overwhelmed and comforted the family. More than 2,500 people have "liked" a Facebook page set up in his honor, and many have shared condolensces and memories of Kaiden.

To the community at large, Shelby said, "Kiss your kids and tell them you love them as many times as you can in a day. Kaiden knew that he was loved. Everybody can take something positive from this."

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