'This is community': Mourners remember Elijah Hawkins, 8, with candlelight vigil
A crowd of about 100 people gathered in West York on Thursday evening to remember a boy who lost his life after a house fire on July 3.
Mourners traveled to West Poplar Terrace to attend a candlelight vigil for Elijah Hawkins, 8.
People bowed their heads and held lit candles during a moment of silence for Elijah. Afterward, those in attendance visited a memorial site set up outside the remnants of the Hawkins family home, some leaving behind toys, candles and other items to remember Elijah. Others signed posters and wrote messages to him and his family.
West York Borough Police blocked off the street for the vigil, and West York firefighters also attended.
The Rev. Chris Cunningham of St. David's Evangelical Congregational Church in Dover Township, a church where Elijah attended youth programs, helped organize the vigil and praised those who have helped the Hawkins family deal with the tragic loss.
"This is community," Cunningham said. "When community comes together because a family is hurting ... when people raise over $80,000, when people come out to a candlelight vigil, and take time off work and shift their lifestyle around for a family, that’s what community looks like."
Another organizer, James Zenkowich, said he was "shocked" by the number of people who attended and offered support for those grieving.
"We got people together, reached out to the community, reached out to people, told them to come out and support it and let (the family) know they’re not alone and that we’re all here for them," he said.
Evan update: Elijah's younger brother Evan, 6, remains in a Maryland hospital because of injuries he suffered in the fire. His health has improved considerably, and he no longer needs a tube to help him breathe, according to family.
"If everything keeps going the way we hope, we hope to be out of here early next week," Evan's father, Jacob Hawkins, posted online. "Thank you everyone for the prayers. We love all of you."
Kirsten Sneddon — who put together a Facebook page called "Helping the Hawkins" and a GoFundMe campaign to benefit the Hawkins family, the latter of which has raised more than $90,000 as of Friday — thanked the community for everything they've done to help.
"I would never have been to the point we are now without them," Sneddon said.
Evan's seventh birthday is July 28, she said, and anyone who wants to send him a birthday card can do so by reaching out to Sneddon, the "Helping the Hawkins" Facebook page or the family by July 27.