While grief persists over the death of 10-year-old Kayla Gomez-Orozco, signs of healing appeared very much present as more than 50 people came out to remember her life Sunday with a tree planting and butterfly release at The Children’s Park in Tyler.
The ceremony began with Children’s Park founder Jennifer Carson sharing the purpose of the park, which is to memorialize children no longer here.
“We’re honored to be here today to remember and celebrate Kayla’s life,” Ms. Carson said.
Kayla, who was a Jack Elementary School fourth-grader, went missing from her church Nov. 1 and was found dead four days later in a well on property where one of her relatives lived.
Her disappearance and subsequent death prompted a huge outpouring of support from the community.
Kayla’s family, neighbors and school community were among those in attendance at Sunday’s event. Her mother, father and brothers used gold-colored shovels adorned with yellow ribbons to plant a tree in her memory.
Volunteers then handed out monarch butterflies, which guests released while a musician played the guitar and sang the song “I Can Only Imagine,” which is about contemplating what it will be like in heaven.
“It was just a very touching, sweet little ceremony and it was just really nice to bring the community together,” Linda Reed, 64, of Tyler, said.
Ms. Reed and her husband, Gil, 71, live in the same neighborhood as Kayla’s family and have watched as that community has wrapped its arms around the family.
“It’s been such a blessing to see the people caring for one another on a level (that), prior to the death, … did not exist,” Reed said.
He said Kayla’s family has reciprocated the prayers and support from their neighbors, even inviting them for a gathering around Thanksgiving to show their appreciation.
“I think their faith’s carried them through a lot,” he said.
Avagail Greene, 9, a Jack Elementary School fourth-grader, came out to the event with her father, Scott, to remember Kayla.
Although Avagail was not in Kayla’s class this school year, she was when the two were in first grade and said they were close.
“It was really special to see her mom and family,” Avagail said.
The Children’s Park along with Tyler Public Library employees sought donations for Kayla’s memorial.
Kayla’s tree was planted on the south side of the park and will flourish in an area where children and adults come to play and reflect.