A small group of community members gathered around the tree honoring Sabrina Ray on Friday, May 11. A soft wind blew through the branches covered with pink blossoms.

Candles that were lit to remember Sabrina Ray on the anniversary on her death on May 12, 2017, flickered briefly in the wind before going out.

“Life happens, wind happens, candles blow out. But we don’t have to lose hope, we don’t have to lose love and we don’t have to live in unforgiveness,” said Pastor Rick Gates, of Crossroads Church, as he led a prayer.

Gates went to say that the community prays for justice, not vengeance, for the death of 16-year-old Sabrina Ray.

Sabrina was found deceased in the family’s home, weighing only 56 pounds. The home, at 1708 First Ave., was also the home of Rays of Sunshine Daycare.

Amanda Howard, who helped organize the May 11 candlelight vigil, knew Sabrina through the day care center. Her children, Grace and Blake, attended the center.

Howard first helped worked with Brian West and Heather Watson to plant a tree honoring Sabrina. A bench was later added next to the tree with a plaque.

As the one year anniversary of Sabrina’s death rolled around, Howard was looking for another way to remember her.

“But also, so that maybe as a community we can finally start healing and we could have hope,” she said. ““Hope for a future, hope that this kind of tragedy will never again happen, hope that we will come together.”

One lone candle flickered in the wind as the small group came together around the tree honoring Sabrina on May 11.

“A candle represents light. And when light is introduced into darkness, it’s no longer dark,” Gates said. “When hope is introduced into hopelessness, it’s no longer hopeless. When love is introduced into an atmosphere where there is no love, it’s no longer loveless.”

He added that the community doesn’t have to continue to live in the tragedy to honor Sabrina’s memory.

“We can work on our own understanding of hope and love and forgiveness,” Gates said.

Loving each other, he said, is the way to make a difference and to make sense of a tragedy like the death of Sabrina.