ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Families gather at the Angel Statue of Hope in downtown Rockford to mourn the loss of a child and find a way to heal together as a community.
"It was really tragic and really sad for our family," said Marisol Martinez, who lost her nephew last year.
"He was very kind, he was loved, he was always there for his siblings and he loved to play video games,” Martinez said.
But Martinez has found ways to grieve her loss.
"Keeping his memory alive is very amazing and helping us cope with it. We continue to celebrate his birthday," Martinez said.
Friday night Martinez spoke at a candlelight vigil held in front of Rockford’s Angel Statue of Hope.
"What we went through who he was you know to keep his name out there and how we are doing now and what we did to get through it all," Martinez said.
"It gives people a place to go to honor primarily a loss of a child," said Christine Tillou, who brought the Angel Statue of Hope to Rockford.
Tillou says the angel is inspired by the book "The Christmas Box”.
"It was not to be a real character in the book but people could not separate the fact that angel became so real to them," Tillou said.
More than 100 angel statues are placed around the world and each community honors lost children on December 6th at 6 p.m.
"We have at least 100 people or more a year that come out and sometimes in some of the most brutal weather," Tillou said.
Many families at the candlelight vigil bring white flowers to represent purity, hope, innocence and peace.
"It's just a simple gesture and it just seems befitting on a night like tonight," Tillou said.
This year marks the seventeenth anniversary of when the ceremony started.