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.
“They are are doing their best under such difficult circumstances, it’s particularly tough at this time of the year.” Charles also spoke of Kallie’s younger sister Lindsey, who was injured in the same accident. “Slowly but surely she is beginning to improve. She is currently getting rehab to help her rehabilitation.” he said.
Another Yonkers resident, Terri Reginella, who has lived in Woodlawn for over thirty years said she was volunteering at the benefit because her daughter Stephanie had been a friend and classmate of Kalie's at St Barnabas High School and she was offering her support in the best way she knew how.
Tara, one of the younger volunteers at Sunday's packed event, said, “It’s something that everybody in this community has helped with in any way they could. There are just so many people here and this highlights the community based teamwork.
“We all wish this tragedy had never happened, but the feedback of support and love for this family really shows what a community is. In that sense it’s amazing to be apart of that sense of community.”
The community of Yonkers gathered in Rory Dolan’s Bar to support and remember Kalie. The event had a sense of good old Irish values about it, putting families first and dealing with a trauma as a community.
The true sense of community was captured as the live auction kicked off with a very animated auctioneer ‘Declan’ who had to come to grips with Sarah Jessica Parkers high heels. He said snapping up such memorabilia was a bargain and he made sure to get the best prices from the punters.
The benefit weekend was held to and to help the family with the medical expenses involved in helping Lindsey's rehabilitation.
The items that drew most attention and interest in the community was a trip to Ireland, which sold for $4,000 and two All-Ireland final tickets which were snapped up for under $1,000.
A bidding war broke out for a limited edition Dublin GAA jersey signed by the current All-Ireland champion team of 2013. The jersey was sold for over $2,000.
The women of Yonkers lined up for a chance to snap up style icon Sarah Jessica Parker's donated heels which included Melissa Black heels, a pair of Chloe sandals and Danielle Michetti loafers.
Anyone who would like to make a donation to ‘The Gill Family Fund’ can do so by clicking on this website www.youcaring.com/kaliegillbenefit or checkscan be made payable and mailed to ‘The Gill Family Fund’, 961 McLean Avenue. Yonkers, New York, 10704.