Vernon (WSYR-TV) - A local pastor prayed as dozens of neighbors stood together in Vernon Tuesday night, holding bright balloons in memory of a little girl with a bright smile.
"She had golden blonde hair, big blue eyes, big black eyelashes. Anyone that ever met her would always remember her. She's just a child that stood out. She was absolutely stunning," said Katie Bielby.
Bielby organized the gathering to say goodbye to a former dance student, 4-year-old Sophia Keyes, who died after falling from a second story window at her home on Oct. 2.
Just before 6 p.m., she was found in the driveway by her family. Emergency crews called to the scene administered CPR, but could not save Sophia.
"For everyone that was there, it is a call they will never forget. When it’s something that involves a small child, it sticks with you for a long time," explained firefighter Jason Lewin.
Several Vernon firefighters lined up Tuesday, as neighbors crowded around the Keyes family, releasing their balloons into the night sky.
"Many of our members either knew the family or their children go to school with Sophia. So, we all wanted to be here to show our support to the family," said Vernon Fire Chief Scott Nell.
Support comes in all sizes. Many of the friends who released balloons for Sophia were young children. Others in the crowd were sympathetic mothers.
"When something like that happens in your community, your heart just goes out to the family," said Vernon resident Shannon Boris. "We just need to be there for each other to get through the hard times because they can happen at any moment."
As neighbors hugged and tears dropped, a sign of love rose into the sky over Vernon with a message from friends of any age.
"Sophia went to heaven. The balloons are going to heaven to be with her," Bielby said.
According to the obituary
, her family is accepting donations to a trust fund for Sophia's brothers. Payment can be made to:
Sophia M. Keyes Memorial Fund
PO Box 337
Whitesboro, NY 13492