It was a touching scene Friday evening in McAdoo as over 100 community members, friends, family members, firefighters and others took part in a candle light and balloon vigil for six year old Madison 'Maddie" Arner.
The youngster passed away following a fast-moving fire that destroyed her family's home last Saturday night.
It was hard to find a dry eye during the vigil as a colorful rainbow appeared above the burnt home where Arner was rescued, bringing some brightness to a gloomy occasion.
Madison was the daughter of John Arner of Nesquehoning and Lorraine Searfoss of McAdoo.
"I loved my little sister," said Chasity Reed, 18, with tears in her eyes. "She (Maddie) was always happy, never upset, and enjoyed being outside with friends."
"She was my cousin," said Stephanie Larry of Summit Hill. "She was always a bubbly and fun-loving girl."
"It is nice to see how much she was loved," added Larry. "It gives me chills seeing all the kind support and love, These small towns and its people come together to help one another in times of crisis."
During the vigil, Aliyah McHugh, 11, donated over $600 to the family from a lemonade stand she ran for the past three days with fellow Girl Scouts.
"I knew her in school and through Girl Scouts," said McHugh, who is the daughter of McAdoo Fire Company firefighter Kurt McHugh. "Maddie enjoyed the arts and always loved to make people laugh."
"This took an emotional toll on many of our firefighters," said Bob Leshko, assistant fire chief, who pointed out that many affected firefighters underwent a critical incident stress management session to help cope. "This is something we are going to remember every time the alarm goes off. This vigil served as a step in our firefighters' recovery and a time to start moving forward."
"I would always see Maddie playing in the back with other kids," said nearby resident Theresa Brennan.
Brennan, who was awaken by a friend's phone call, remembered the quick actions by firefighters, saying, "The firefighters' response was amazing. They were here right away."
"Our firefighters had a great response that night," said Michael "Twiggy" Bowman, McAdoo EMS captain, who was in charge of EMS during the fire. "Please install working smoke detectors on every floor of your home," said Bowman, who added that the fire company routinely distributes free smoke detectors to the community.
"She (Arner) cleared the skies for us," said speaker George Halcovage, Schuylkill County Commissioner, who pointed out that yesterday's heavy rains had stopped only minutes prior to the vigil. "The most important thing is for family, friends and community members to keep showing support."
"I'm especially grateful to the heroic firefighters that risked their lives that night," praised Larry. "Our entire family is so proud for what they have done. No matter the outcome, they are our heroes."
Organizers Jennifer and Robert Wesner stated their high appreciation to everyone that came out in support of Maddie and her family.
They added that donations can still be dropped off or mailed to the McAdoo Fire Company Inc., Attention fire victims, P. O. Box 116, McAdoo, PA 18237.
Donations can also be dropped off at Radocha Peter J. and Sons in Coaldale.
A memorial service for Madison will be held Tuesday at the Damiano Funeral Home in McAdoo. Call 10 a.m. to noon at the funeral home.
Interment will be in St. Michael's Cemetery, Summit Hill.
"Madison is going to live on in all of us," said Jennifer Wesner. "We love you Maddie."