A small group of people gathered on a cold and wet evening at Carson Elementary School on South Hill on Wednesday for a candlelight vigil to honor the children and teachers who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The vigil was organized by the TEARS Foundation, founded by Sarah Slack after she lost her son 12 years ago.
“I wanted to help other families who had lost children,” she said.
Slack and her husband could not afford a marker for their infant son’s grave until she held a garage sale to raise money. She said she took all the money and change she earned in a bag to the cemetery to pay for her son’s grave marker, and she vowed to help other families who had trouble paying for their children’s markers.
As people lit candles Wednesday, volunteers handed out green-and-white ribbons – Sandy Hook Elementary School’s colors.
Mike Goodell lives near Carson Elementary and said he just had to be there.
“My daughter is in the Peace Corps in South Africa and helps children, and told me I needed to be here,” Goodell said. “Kids are such a special thing.”
Jack Gillett, chaplain of the Graham Fire and Rescue Department, opened with a prayer and read each child’s name and age, followed by a moment of silence. Then he offered guidance to anyone who was having trouble dealing with the tragedy.
As the wind blew out candles and people turned to each other to relight them, Sarah Tweet sang Amazing Grace, and the crowd joined in as she closed with Silent Night.
The TEARS Foundation has chapters in 10 states throughout the country.
“We seek to compassionately assist families who have lost their child, helping them with unexpected expenses for final arrangements, and we come alongside those families and provide the emotional support through support groups and walks to honor their children,” said Sabrina Bjornstad, marketing director for the local TEARS Foundation.
The Puyallup branch began to serve families with older children when Charlie and Braden Powell were killed by their father last February.
“At that time, we only provided services for infant loss, but now we have a Charlie and Braden project for elementary school-aged children ages 1 to 12,” Bjornstad said.
The Puyallup School District and Carson Elementary Principal Kevin Hampton were pleased to offer the site for the vigil.
“We are honored to have this candlelight vigil take place at the school,” Hampton said. “We all are in need to mourn and honor the heroes and the children.”Joan Cronk is a freelance reporter for the Herald.