“(Tonight is) a night of finding hope amidst our sadness and grief,” said Chuck Brower, who opened the service at Hudsonville Congregational United Church of Christ.
And find hope they did, as attendees reminisced about the role Kuiper played in their lives. Some wore shirts in honor of Kuiper, while others embraced and wiped away tears as they talked about the boy.
Tyler Bradham, one of the many friends at the funeral, remembered Kuiper as someone who cared a lot for other people.
“He was a brother. He was a family to me,” Bradham said. “He had to be one of the most cheerful people I’ve ever known.”
Police said Kuiper was shot by 18-year-old Richard Usher in the basement of a Tallmadge Township home on March 6, playing a game of Russian roulette with several other teens. Kuiper died of his injuries two days later at a Grand Rapids hospital.
Usher is in jail, charged with manslaughter.
Jesse Gayle, who played the guitar and sang “Carry On" in Kuiper’s memory on Friday night, remembered him fondly.
“Brandon wasn’t just a person, he was a great person,” Gayle said. “I feel like that is something special.”
“Brandon Kuiper was funny, and he was always caring,” said Trey Tetro.
Tetro said he couldn’t believe that his friend of four years was gone.
“He loved everyone, and it’s the worst thing that he had to leave, because I loved him so much,” Tetro said.
Another friend, Sebastian Alcala, said Kuiper did whatever was possible to put a smile on his face.
"He did it for everyone," Alcala said. “... It’s going to be hard not seeing him here, but he is in a better place."
Dan Clark, the youth pastor for the Hudsonville church, shared those feelings of smiles and happiness, and recalled Kuiper as a joyful person in the years that he’d known the boy.
“I remember his smile, I remember his joy and I remember his passion,” Clark said. “Brandon had a sense of humor and I am truly grateful for the time I spent with Brandon. That’ll never go away.”
Clark reminded everyone that, despite the loss, there was plenty that could be used to carry on Kuiper’s legacy.
“Brandon showed God’s love abundantly," Clark said to the mourners. "Show that to others.”
The Rev. Frank McAuley also said it was important for those who knew Kuiper to keep his spirit alive.
“We take that fun, that mischievousness and that zest for life, and we let it out into the world around us,” he said. “Death is not the end, because there is a time when we will see that smile again.“