On October 11th, the community of Yonkers was united in grief at the tragic news of the death of 15 year-old Kalie Gill in a tragic accident.
Kalie was killed when an out of control car driven by a local schoolteacher slammed into her as it exited a church in Yonkers. New York. Her sister. Lindsey, was badly injured.
The family had only recently returned from Co. Leitrim after living there for eight years. They were left devastated by the accident.
This weekend the community reunited to honor the life of the young girl. The Kalie Gill benefit weekend saw an outpouring of Irish American community spirit with a series of events taking place in a two-part fundraiser.
Sarah Jessica Parker, who has a home in Ireland and is a frequent visitor to Yonkers' Irish shops such as the Butcher’s Fancy, donated shoes and handbags for the auction.
Friday night saw a benefit concert take place at St Barnabas High School Chapel. Kalie was a student at the school.
The community turned out in force on Sunday for the second part of the fundraiser being held at Rory Dolan’s Bar and Restaurant.
Speaking at the event, new President-elect of Yonkers City Council Liam McLaughlin said there was a sense of community that was in abundance amongst the crowds flowing through the benefit over the weekend.
“It’s such a horrible and unimaginable tragedy for the family. For the community, we are out in full force to let the Gill family know we are there to support and love them,and what ever we can do to help them recover, we will be there.
“The community has not stopped talking about this accident since it happened, and to have these benefits going on, is a testament to what a strong community is and how much they feel for this family.
“I don’t know if the Gill family will ever be able to move on. it’s one of those things you will never be able to forget as you want to honor the life that was lost. As a community we want to help the family and to let them know that we are here for them, in particular for Lindsey who is still recovering.” added Mr McLaughlin.
As Christmas music echoed through the benefit and small children danced to the music, there was a strong sense of a life ended too soon. The energy that filled the room certainly represented 15-year old Kalie.
As Santa Claus sat in the corner with the younger members of the Irish American community queueing up to have their photograph taken, local business man Seamus Clarke observed: “The Gill family are a very prominent family here, and had been neighbors of mine back home in County Leitrim. I think everybody that has encountered this family and story was touched by the tragedy.
“This is one of the best days in this community since the tragic events of October 11. The benefit weekend was organised to give the family a spiritual lift and let them know the community are here for them, it wasn’t about the financial element, it was to unite the community in support.”
Among the hundreds in attendance was Cardinal Timothy Dolan. He told LoHud.com "When I heard they were doing it, darn it, it doesn’t take much to get me to Rory Dolan’s anyway."
He added "But I thought for a great cause like this, it will be virtuous.”
Part of the benefit weekend included the Sunday's auction, which included two Super Bowl tickets, a trip to Ireland and the much anticipated auction of shoes donated by Sarah Jessica Parker best known for her role as fashionista Carrie Bradshaw in "Sex and the City."
Chairperson of the benefit weekend Oliver Charles spoke of the community of Yonkers and how, in his opinion, there wasn't a better area in the country for such deep Irish community spirit.
“I feel so humbled, by the response of the benefit weekend organized, it’s not about me as chairperson or us as a committee. Today is about a community, everyone gets 100 percent full credit for the strong sense of Irish American community that is represented here today.”
He spoke of Kalie’s parents, Damien and Karen, and her sisters, Jamie and Lindsey.