Vigil to mark 7-year-old’s death
by Megan Thornton
mthornton@mdjonline.com
November 23, 2012 12:00 AM | 3098 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — A candlelight vigil will take place next Sunday marking a year since the death of 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera.

The vigil will be at 6:30 p.m. in the G. Cecil Pruett Community Center Family YMCA in Canton and is open to the public.

The event will be in remembrance of the Canton Elementary School student who was killed inside her apartment complex last year by maintenance worker Ryan Brunn, who pled guilty to the killing before hanging himself in jail.

Bianca Cummings, a local child safety advocate and organizer of the event, said Jorelys’ mother, Joselinne Rivera-Ruiz, asked her to help coordinate the vigil.

John Hicks, executive director for the Canton YMCA, said he and the YMCA staff are honored to be a part of remembering Jorelys.

“It was a tragic, significant event in our community,” Hicks said. “I think holding the vigil is in respect to her and her family, but also in recognition of community responding and coming together to have safe community for our kids.”

Cummings said Canton pastor Eloisa Gonzalez and Amy Turcotte, director of development at Goshen Valley Boys Ranch, are both featured speakers.

“The theme is going to be a celebration of life,” Cummings said.

Cummings said Rivera-Ruiz has compiled a slideshow with photographs of Jorelys and some of the young girl’s favorite music.

The two met when Cummings and Canton Police Sgt. Stacy Bailey began Canton-Cherokee radKIDS, a children’s safety education program, and Jorelys’ siblings were invited to enroll in the course.

“She reached out to me in October to help her plan the event,” Cummings said. “It was an honor for her to ask me to do it, and I knew there was absolutely no way I could refuse to do something so special for her.”

Cummings said Rivera-Ruiz, who has rarely spoken to the media, feels a close connection with the Canton community after they showed an outpouring of support over the last year.

“As a mother who had the most horrible loss possible, I just think she wants people to know that her daughter mattered — that she lived, she existed and she was loved,” Cummings said.

The radKIDS program, which holds classes at the YMCA, is dedicated in Jorelys’ legacy and continues to thrive, Cummings said.

“In September, we graduated our 99th student and will have over 100 graduates by the end of the year,” Cummings said.

Hicks said the program is vital to keeping Cherokee County children safe.

“The death of Jorelys is a reminder and a wake-up call that stimulated us to respond and teach kids the skills needed to protect themselves,” Hicks said.

For those interested in enrolling their children in the program, Cummings said a few spots are left for the class beginning Dec. 11. Visit cantoncherokeeradkids.org for more information.
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