On Saturday evening, the community of Chino Valley gathered together to remember Christian Pearson - to remind one another of his smile and his friendliness and sweetness. Hundreds of people sat in chairs or on blankets in the grass - holding candles in their hands, as if to try to capture the light that was Christian just one more time.
Sarah Bristol, one of the organizers of the candlelight vigil explained, "We were hoping for a small crowd to gather and light candles, what we ended up with was 300-400 people arriving for a memorial service… We were able to give his Dad a goodbye gift that he wouldn’t have otherwise received… That is the biggest blessing of all… He really needed this time to grieve.”
Paper, pens and crayons were set out to share a memory about Christian, or write a note to his family.
A table was set up with pictures of Christian and piles of flowers. Children sat in front, crying softly.
Family and friends embraced, holding each other tightly.
Expressing a desire that this be a celebration of Christian’s life - not a focus on how he died, Heights Church Pastor Ron Merrill read a letter from the family:
The family sat in a row together, holding hands tightly, in support of one another, often bowing their heads.
Christian’s father, Erik Pearson, was not expected to attend the vigil due to his personal health problems, but he later explained, “The community has been so supportive of us, I had to come and support them.”
Christian’s grandmother, Andrea Pearson, came and sat next to her son, Erik.
Teachers shared their memories about Christian’s infectious smile and his quick wit.
Supporters came from all over the state, including representatives from Bikers Against Child Abuse.
Perhaps most poignant, however, were the young children that spoke of their love and friendships with Christian.
Watch the ceremony: