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Swimmers gather to honor Prince brothers

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Ellie Pirkle, 8, of the Daniel Park Twisters displays her support for the Prince family during a fundraiser swim meet against the Hidden Falls Rapids in Dacula on Thursday.  The swim meet raised funds for the family of Jake and Griffin Prince, brothers who were killed in the June 18th boating accident on Lake Lanier.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Ellie Pirkle, 8, of the Daniel Park Twisters displays her support for the Prince family during a fundraiser swim meet against the Hidden Falls Rapids in Dacula on Thursday. The swim meet raised funds for the family of Jake and Griffin Prince, brothers who were killed in the June 18th boating accident on Lake Lanier.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Tracie Edwards, left, and Channy Fish, aunts of Jake and Griffin Prince comfort one another as Gary Hansen the boys grandfather thanks the community for their support during a fundraiser swim meet in Dacula on Thursday. Brother's Jake and Griffin Prince were killed in a June 18th boating accident on Lake Lanier.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Jill Kennedy and her daughter Kaylee, 14, place tickets into a fundraiser raffle bucket during a swim meet between the Daniel Park Twisters and the Hidden Falls Rapids in Dacula on Thursday. The community raised funds for the family of Jake and Griffin Prince with a raffle auction.

DACULA -- On Thursday night, they all swam for Jake and Griffin.

Declarations like "families are forever" and "I swim for Jake and Griffin" scrawled across their backs and down their arms, a few hundred youngsters gathered for more than a swim meet at the Dacula subdivision of Daniel Park.

With raffles and giveaways and straightforward donations, Thursday's meet between the Daniel Park Twisters and Hidden Falls Rapids served as a fundraiser for Buford's Prince family, who lost two sons in a fatal boating accident on June 18. Jake Prince, 9, was found shortly after the crash.

Thursday's meet came almost exactly 24 hours after the body of his brother, 13-year-old Griffin, was found deep below Lake Lanier's surface.

"This fundraiser helps our families cope with this sad event and allows us to help the Prince family deal with what has happened to Jake and Griffin as well," Daniel Park council member Sheri Bevil said. "Our teams want the Prince family to know that they have a community of love and support behind them."

Jake and Griffin weren't -- correction: aren't -- much for competitive swimming, their grandfather said before the meet's start, but that didn't much matter. Sticking to a family oath to refer to the boys only in the present tense, the grandfather, Gary Hansen, said Thursday's events were a reaffirming experience.

"It's so many people, it's just an amazing thing," Hansen said. "I'll have to confess I always wondered whether or not some people cared. But this has been one of those times when all of us have had our estimate of humanity and the goodness of people's hearts just raised to a much, much higher level."

Added Channy Fish, one of the boys' aunts: "It's just so incredibly moving."

Fundraisers during the meet included raffle giveaways from Kroger, Sonic and many more. One representative said they had to stop accepting offers for raffles -- they didn't have enough tables to keep adding buckets to collect tickets.

The event at Daniel Park was just one of a few at meets spread across Gwinnett County.

One group of four swimmers drew pictures of angels and crosses and the words "families are forever" across their collective backs.

"Even though we didn't all know them, we all just felt so touched," 12-year-old Roxy Duff said.

"We heard about the accident and we were really inspired by it," pal Madison McManners, 11, said. "This brings families closer together."

Hansen announced Thursday that a public visitation will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday at the Hamilton Mill Memorial Chapel. A private funeral for family, close friends and public safety personnel involved in the search for Griffin will be held the next day.

The family, Hansen said, has been overwhelmed by the public support.

"It's the most amazing thing," he said. "We're very well aware of the fact that at any given time there are many deaths of children and others that are just as deserving of the attention as we are. We feel that perhaps the hand of the Lord is in this just a little bit, that maybe some good can come from this."