Many used the time to grieve the passing of 16-year-old Jason Maulden and his grandfather 58-year-old Steve Cervantez, others simply lent a shoulder.
Both were pronounced dead as the result of a single vehicle accident on Interstate 80 near Ottawa while returning from the American Legion State Baseball Tournament in Arlington Heights.
Students, parents, and teachers circled the victim’s family before opening the ceremony with an evening prayer.
“I think it shows incredible support that some of the students may not be aware that we have in this community” says Galesburg High School Senior Ally McKillip. “Although it takes a tragedy to see how strong of a bond we have here, there is honestly something here and it’s very obvious, especially within these past few days, that there is a lot of support and understanding in this town.”
McKillip has known Maulden since 6th grade and was close to his mother, 35-year-old Keisa Henry, who was injured in Saturday’s accident.
Word of last night’s prayer vigil spread on social media as friends of the victim took to Facebook and Twitter to ensure those closest were included. Local churches encouraged the observance by agreeing to donate candles.
Ashley Qualls was among those promoting Maulden’s prayer vigil. She tells WGIL it was an opportunity to share stories of Maulden’s life.
“It just kind of helps everybody feel like they’re helping, and we are,” says Qualls. “It helps us grieve the loss too, just kind of with a memorial before the visitation happens just so we can all remember him.”
Noticeable in the Galesburg High School parking lot were members of the Legion Post 285 baseball team. Each was wearing a shirt with Maulden’s name freshly printed on the back. The team still plans to attend the Regional Tournament in Terre Haute, Indiana with a send off planned for 7:30 Wednesday morning at Gale Elementary.
Coach Steve Cheesman, who has expressed the importance of offering support to his players, was asked to lead the crowd in a few words.
“It’s just the ultimate heartbreak here with a young man that had so much promise and so many things in life and his entire life ahead of him, and such a wonderful teammate and the kids had so much regard for him,” Cheesman said on Monday.
The players grieved in their own way, huddling together in camaraderie for several minutes before filing out to prepare for the challenges ahead.
Maulden passed away one day after his grandfather at a hospital in suburban Chicago.
Despite scattered tears in the audience, Maulden’s aunt was gracious for the support and said the turnout was evidence of the impact a young life had on his community.
“He was a giver until the very end,” she said, making note of Maulden’s organ donation.
Tuesday night’s prayer vigil concluded on the count of three when a collective exhale darkened the candles.
The funeral arrangements for Maulden have not been announced.