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Families gather for annual Angels of Hope vigil

COAL CITY – Patty and Jim Pack drove from Pontiac to Coal City on Friday night, braving freezing temperatures, so they could attend the annual Angels of Hope candlelight vigil.

“We wouldn’t miss it for anything,” Patti said.

For four years, the Pecks, their daughter Ollie Carr and her husband Vincent Carr have attended the vigil to remember daughter Crystal Carr, who passed away in a car crash nearly five years ago.

“It’s nice not feeling so alone, but really we just want to remember and honor her,” said Ollie Carr.

The Carrs and more than 100 others came to honor their deceased children at Friday’s event.

“You know, our warmest evenings are usually our smallest crowds,” said Valerie Tucker of Angels of Hope. “That tells you how important this is to everybody. The cold doesn’t keep them away.”

Angels of Hope is an organization to help anyone dealing with the emotional or physical absence of a child. It was established in 2005, and helps in many ways, including through a Creating Miracles grant that assists couples with infertility procedures and an Everlasting Footprints grant that helps those who have lost children with burial and headstone fees.

Every Angels of Hope chapter in the nation holds their vigil at the same time every year – 7 p.m. Dec. 6.

In Coal City, people gather around the Angel of Hope statue in Campbell Park. The statue was dedicated to Coal City in October 2006 to provide a place for all those who have lost a child to remember their loved ones.

The Coal City statue is the 69th statue nationwide. The tradition of the statue stems from a story called “The Christmas Box,” by Richard Paul Evans. In the book, a woman mourns the loss of her child at the base of an angel monument.

At Friday’s event, attendees were provided with white flowers to place near the statue. Before each person placed their flower, they said the names of their deceased loved ones into a microphone.

“People can honor a child of any age,” Tucker said. “It doesn’t have to be relatives, just anyone who wants to honor that child.”

The night began with a personal story from Angels of Hope board member Nicole Lusson and was followed by a performance by the Coal City High School “Footnotes” Choir who sang Amazing Grace and Silent Night.

“I am Nicole Lusson, mother of heavenly son, Gavin Burke Ulvi,” Lusson said. “I pray tonight that all of our children see our lights, knowing that we are here for them.”

Lusson was followed by Ruth Ann Hartsfield who shared the story of losing her newborn daughter more than 30 years ago. Her daughter was born with congenital heart disease and died a few days after she was born.

“I am so glad the medicine has come so far for your generation,” Hartsfield said.

After the ceremony, much of the crowd lingered in the bitter cold to hug, cry, talk and comfort each other.

“Nicole, Traci and I would like to thank you all for joining us,” Tucker concluded. “As you, your friends and family leave the memorial garden tonight, we wish you love, faith, grace and most of all, we wish you hope.”

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