Aaron's mother, Esther Reed, is a nurse who counsels hotline patients, and his 17-year-old sister, Julia, is a senior at Hammond High who will study journalism in the fall at the University of Maryland.

"We still have a tremendous amount of unanswered questions," Esther Reed said. "It's nerve-racking."

All members of the Reed family have found some solace in a nonprofit they have founded in Aaron's memory. Called the Pick Me Up Foundation — named after the last alternative-rock song Aaron was writing — it will provide resources to underprivileged, aspiring musicians.

"Our basement used to be filled with kids — rap, hip-hop artists, Aaron would record them all," Brian Reed recalled. "He had a strong heart for helping kids make music and for teaching them how to do stuff. He felt that no kid should be kept from giving music a shot because his or her family couldn't afford to pay for an instrument or lessons or to have their music recorded."

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Aaron had proved himself to be a musician of diverse talents who, aside from the guitar, also played the piano and drums. He often recorded himself playing each of the instruments separately for a song and then combined all the tracks, Brian Reed said.

He played and sang in a local band called The Runways, who performed in Ellicott City at such venues as the Diamondback Tavern and the Judge's Bench; and in another band in Buffalo called New World Commotion. He had recorded two albums of his music and worked for a year at a recording studio in Dublin.

"We had thought the move to Buffalo, where there's a good music scene, and Aaron's cousins were nearby, would make a great steppingstone to a career," Reed said.

Esther Reed said she has been overwhelmed by the response to her son's death.

"He gave a lot in his short time here," she said. "He saw so much promise in people through music, and liked to show them a different way of expressing themselves that they may not have tried."

She intends to show musicians the collection of poems he had written, hoping that one or more may find a way to set his words to music because she "just can't let them go to waste."

Julia Reed said she'll still lean on her big brother even though he's gone.

"I know I'll continue to learn from his caring and adventurous characteristics the rest of my life," she said. "Aaron taught me that passions are worth pursuing."

Bilal Khalid, who graduated from Hammond with Aaron, spoke about his friend at a Feb. 9 memorial service attended by more than 250 people crammed into Amherst House in Kings Contrivance to celebrate his life. Some of his friends jammed at the service with provided instruments to honor Aaron's musical legacy.

"Aaron was a very open person, and there wasn't a person he came across that he didn't give all of himself to," said Khalid, a senior economics major at the University of Maryland.

"He had a natural passion to create and to be different," he said. "He lived without regret, and chased what he wanted to do in life."

While at Hammond, Aaron took computer science for three years with teacher Alan Kostrick, who also attended the service.

"He was such a fun-loving and positive kid who had a great energy about him," he recalled. "His death has been really hard on a lot of people."

Kostrick, who often wore one of Aaron's band's T-shirts in class on casual Fridays, said he's considering setting up an open mike night at Hammond in Aaron's name as an annual tribute.

Brian Reed said he has high hopes for the Pick Me Up Foundation, especially since two people have contacted him about making monetary donations in the tens of thousands of dollars from their personal estates to help launch it.

"We've been throwing ourselves into working on the foundation so that Aaron's love of music and his compassionate spirit can live on," he said. "It's the only thing keeping us going."

For more information on the nonprofit set up in Aaron Reed's name, go to thepickmeupfoundation.com.