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Valley community mourns Mitchell girl
September 29, 2011 Lisa Betz   

Read more by Lisa Betz

Community members gather Friday at Mitchell’s Centennial Park for a candlelight vigil in memory of 8-year-old Kerra Wilson whose body was found earlier that day by a local rancher. Hundreds of people attended the vigil in Mi

The disappearance of 8-year-old Kerra Wilson from Mitchell last week left the community reeling in devastation. Before Wilson was found, child advocate Jessica Gladson, of Torrington, Wyo., had created a Facebook page dedicated to finding Wilson.

“I happened to be sitting at my computer searching the web and saw that this little girl went missing and as a mom, I thought, okay something’s gotta be done, we need a Facebook page.”

Gladson created the MISSINGKerra M. Wilson page on Facebook, which quickly became a central communication hub for a community that felt helpless in the face of such concern.

Almost immediately after media reported that Wilson’s body had been found members of the community mobilized to bring what comfort could be realized in the midst of the tragic loss.

Morrill resident Amanda Halstead began a teddy bear drive modeled after “Hugs Across America,” an organization that comforts children in crisis through the hugs of teddy bears. Halstead reached out to the community through the MISSINGKerra M. Wilson Facebook page created by Gladson, and began soliciting new teddy bear donations.
“I wanted to do ‘Hugs Across America’ for the students and the siblings and the family. There has been a lot of response. So far, it’s been good,” Halstead said Friday night at a vigil in Mitchell.
Bears collected will be adorned with a ribbon and a photo of Kerra. “Some of them have poems,” said Halstead. “They are all different.”

The bears will be given to Wilson’s siblings first, then extended family and, if there are enough, each of her Mitchell Elementary classmates. The ultimate goal is to provide a bear for each Mitchell Elementary student. About 288 teddy bears were tagged on Sunday night.

“The goal is 420. “A lot of teddy bear donations have not yet been gathered and the goal may already have been met.” We will accept bear donations at the following locations: Kmart in Scottsbluff; Gering Citizen, in downtown Gering; and USave in Morrill.

Candlelight vigils held throughout the community
Many candlelight vigils were held Friday night throughout the Panhandle to mourn the loss of Kerra Wilson and show support for Wilson’s family. At Mitchell’s Centennial Park, hundreds of people arrived shortly before dark. Pink and white balloons were distributed among the crowd. Many young families with children were present and people of all ages huddled together quietly as they waited for the speakers to begin. A prayer was spoken by Pastor Chuck Richardson.

Mitchell resident Bobby O’Reiley, who moved to the area from California three months ago and has been instrumental in organizing the vigil and fundraising events, told the crowd, “When you have a child that was really good friends with Kerra and the police tell you ‘there is nothing you can do, go home,’ that is an unacceptable answer. So I am doing what I can do.”

O’Reiley served as master of ceremonies at the vigil and introduced Amanda Wilson, Kerra’s mother, who tearfully said a goodbye to her daughter. “I love you with all my heart and I don’t know how someone could do such a thing to me … I miss you my angel. I love you so much.”

After other family members spoke, the family released pink and white balloons with messages for Kerra written on them. Then the balloons held by all gathered were released into the night sky, with the stars twinkling among them.

How you can help:
Donate to the Kerra Wilson Memorial Fund by visiting any Valley Bank and Trust branch location. Nebraska locations are at Gering, Scottsbluff, Bayard, Ogallala and Wauneta. Colorado locations are at Loveland and Ft. Collins. All funds will be directly distributed to Dugan Kramer Funeral Chapel.

Memorial services have been scheduled Thursday, Sept. 29 at 10 a.m. at the Scotts Bluff County Fair Grounds. Pastor Don Stephens will officiate and interment will follow in the Mitchell cemetery. A viewing has been arranged at 4 p.m. 8 p.m. at the Dugan Kramer Funeral Chapel on Wednesday, Sept., 28.

Pancake supper
The Eagles Club in Bridgeport will host a pancake supper and bake sale on Friday from 6 – 8 p.m. All proceeds will go to the Kerra Wilson Memorial Fund.

The Kerra Wilson Memorial Bike Run
A bike run is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 1. Register at the Oregon Trail Lounge in Gering between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The route includes stops at the Wooden Keg in Kimball, Dude’s Steakhouse in Sidney, The Rock n’ Horse Lounge in Bridgeport and returns to Oregon Trail Lounge in Gering. There will be giveaways at each stop. The cost is $20 per bike. All proceeds will be donated to the Kerra Wilson Memorial Fund.

Husker Party
A benefit Husker Party will begin at 5 p.m., also at the Oregon Trail Lounge in Gering. Kickoff is at 6 p.m., with a barbecue and prizes throughout the game. All entry fees, prize ticket sales and food sales from the barbecue will be donated in full. Raffle tickets for door prizes are $1 each, 6 for $5 or 13 for $10. Anyone interested in donating prizes or food products, contact Mandi Adams at (308) 631-6667 or Jessica Gladson at (307) 575-4676.

Car wash and spaghetti feed fundraisers are also being planned but details are currently pending.
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