Dover Township boy killed in crash remembered at vigil
Amid many tears shed at a candlelight vigil for 13-year-old Matthew Gowen on Sunday night at Dover Community Park were giggles of remembrance for a boy described as caring, ever optimistic and, above all, very funny.
Eighth grader Michaela Fink, who went to Dover Intermediate School with Matthew, recalled a moment last year when students walked out of the school's cafeteria upset from being dismissed early when Matthew seized an opportunity for levity.
She said Matthew threw crumbled Doritos chips across the hallway, with bits scattering from wall to wall. He then threw himself on the floor and tried to crumble them further with his body while eating the chips from the floor.
"He would always do stuff to make people laugh," Michaela said, giggling.
Matthew was dragging an elliptical machine with three other juveniles at 7:30 p.m. Thursday along South Salem Church Road in Dover Township when he was struck and killed by a Kia minivan, according to Northern York County Regional Police. The other pedestrians and the 35-year-old driver were not hurt.
Sunday night's vigil brought hundreds to the park, some holding white candles and others with smartphone flashlights.
The boy's family spoke briefly at the basketball court, asking attendants to celebrate Matthew's life through laughter and reflection on his impact to them.
Family members wore white shirts with the number 5, Matthew's number on the Dover Intermediate football team last year.
Grief counselors were at the district this weekend for students and staff, according to police, and in a statement Sunday evening on its website, the district announced it would continue counseling at the school.
Michaela's mother, Tonya Fink, said she couldn't imagine how Matthew's family must be feeling.
"I wouldn't be able to go on," she said, "From what my daughter tells me, he seemed like such a wonderful boy. I feel so horrible for the family."
"I feel, as a parent, the loss that that poor family is facing right now," said Lisa Brady, a parent of Matthew's friend Jenna. She said the loss of never seeing him get a first job, a first car or graduate from high school is a tragedy in itself.
"The class of 2022 has changed forever," she said.
Bella Crawford, 13, said she was best friends with Matthew, and while she constantly had tears gushing from her eyes, she said the community support for Matthew meant the world to her and to others who knew him.
Gianni Morello, a seventh grader at Dover Intermediate School, said the feeling at the school on Friday was unlike anything he had experienced.
"It was horrible," he said. "It was so depressing."
Gianni came with his whole family, who stood by him as he left a message on a poster board. He hadn't interacted with Matthew much recently, but when he found out about Matthew's death on Snapchat, he said he had to make it out.
"We just wanted to support his family," he said.
Gianni's mother, Roxanne Morello, of Dover Township, said Dover sticks together in tragic times, and this vigil was no different.
"Whether you're related to them or even know them, when something like that happens, it's just basic decency to come out and support his parents," she said.