Remembering Kelli O’Laughlin a year later
Updated: December 24, 2012 1:17AM
The leaves, again, are clinging to the tips of the branches and will likely swirl to the ground with the next gusty autumn rainstorm, where they will collect in sodden piles of amber, gold and crimson.
It is another fall, the same season, and yet, in so many profound ways, it is most definitely not.
It has been a cycle of four full seasons since Kelli Joy O’Laughlin’s soul left this earth during a monstrous act in her Indian Head Park home.
For all of those seasons, white ribbons have circled many of the trees in our community, a show of support for Kelli’s family and a reminder of her innocence.
Quite a few of those ribbons are a tinge darker now, fraying in spots. Yet they remain tethered as a sign of steadfastness.
While the season returns and several ribbons remain wrapped around trees, the loop is not a closed one.
Seasons repeat in a cycle, but throughout them, time moves forward. Shadows grow shorter, then longer, then shorter again, but those of us under the same sun grow older.
Likewise, trees continue their lifespan through the seasons. Younger trees sprout taller and stronger. Mature trees are sustained by their lifecycle of air and water. Older arbors are vulnerable to the elements around them, their bark and branches becoming more brittle.
Similarly, the season is the same, but time has moved forward since Kelli Joy with the sunny smile was taken a year ago this week. And during this past year, her brief life has had a remarkable impact on the greater world around her.
Classmates and friends of Kelli have banded together to make the world better through fundraisers that raised money for the Kelli Joy O’Laughlin Memorial Fund, started by her loving mom and dad, Brenda and John O’Laughlin. For each teenager who made a bracelet, washed a car, sold a raffle ticket, lifted a microphone, sold a shirt or provided words of solace to her family, we are reminded that there is something higher and better at work than the depravity that started all of this.
Brenda and John have drawn strength from Kelli’s friends and from the communities around them, so much so that they have , though their immeasurable pain, been the face of the fund that bears their daughter’s name.
They congratulated the winners of the scholarship. They stood in Sacajawea Park last August, encircled by a large crowd, and spoke bravely about Kelli’s life and legacy before releasing balloons into the sky. They dedicated gardens, funded a girl’s trip to Kelli’s favorite summer camp, gave new uniforms to the LT girls’ tennis team and continued a charity that Kelli herself supported.
This Saturday, the O’Laughlin family will again stand in Sacajawea Park in tight circle with their community in remembrance, on the one-year anniversary of Kelli’s death. As they have before, the family welcomes people to join them, this time for the dedication of Kelli’s Playground in the park and a candlelight vigil, starting at 6 p.m.
On Sunday, Nov. 11, they will not just stand, but stride forward with Kelli’s legions of supporters at the Run for Kelli event, a fundraising race at Lyons Township High School South Campus.
The path of that race probably will be a circular one, too, finishing not far from where it started. But, amid the fallen leaves, it will be marked by collective steps that move ahead, guided by endurance, defined by time and, ultimately, toward a line of hope and strength. ~.
Readers may contact Lynn Petrak by leaving a message at (630) 320-5488 or by sending an email to email@example.com.