ELKINS - Hundreds of people filled the Elkins Town Square Monday to take part in a candlelight vigil honoring the five family members who lost their lives in a tragic fire on Central Street on Oct. 28.
Elkins Mayor Van Broughton, who organized the vigil with the help of community volunteers, thanked local first responders for their work and joined in prayer for family members still struggling with their injuries.
"This has been one of the saddest weeks we have had in Elkins," Broughton said. "I am moved by how our community has come together in the face of this terrible tragedy."
Allyson Haynes, center, weeps in remembrance of her classmate, Kate Bolgar, 11, one of five — including four children — who perished after a house fire last week on Central Street in Elkins. Allyson is joined by her mother, Antoinette Haynes, right, and her friend, Bailey Tracy, during a candlelight vigil held Monday in the city's town square to remember Kate and the Chamberlain family. Allyson, who became emotional as balloons were released during the singing of the hymn 'Amazing Grace,' attended Elkins Middle School with Kate, and the two had been friends since kindergarten. (The Inter-Mountain photo by Heather Goodwin Henline)
Broughton said he hated that it took a tragedy to bring the community together.
"I wish it never happened," Broughton said. "But I love that I live in a place where the people take time out of their busy lives to show their love and concern. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Alan Chamberlain, 29, the family's father, and the family's four children - Katie Bolgar, 11, Isabella Chamberlain, 4, Brienna Chamberlain, 2, and Alanna Chamberlain, 2 - all died of their injuries from the fire. The mother, Jennifer Chamberlain, 34, and her brother Jeff Hyde are still being cared for at the West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh.
Dmitriy Bolgar, of Virginia, who is the father of Katie Bolgar, spoke during the vigil, as well.
"Most of you don't know me, but I'm Katie's dad," Bolgar said. "I want to let everyone know that I got word today that Katie gave the gift of life to a little 1-year-old girl by giving her a liver. I found out today that the little girl is doing well.
"There are still two other people that received her kidneys and they are doing well. So, even in death, she is bringing joy to so many families as she did in life."
Broughton read a statement prepared by the family of Alan and Jen Chamberlain.
"We would like to thank the community for the overwhelming support, love and respect for our privacy during this tragic time," Broughton read. "On Oct. 28, it is our understanding that this nightmare didn't just affect us, but the neighbors and friends of our loved ones. We would like to personally thank the first responders of the five fire departments that answered the call, Elkins EMS and Elkins City Police. You risked your own lives in your efforts of saving our family. This will never be forgotten. Our gratitude is extended to the staff of Davis Memorial Hospital, who worked diligently to resuscitate our loved ones.
"The group of people grew larger as we had our family members life-flighted to West Penn Burn Center," Broughton read. "When we arrived, we were met by a very caring and supportive staff of doctors, nurses and support staff including the CEO, who repeatedly asked us if there was anything they could do to provide for our family and our needs.
"This community and many others showed their true and unconditional support and love and continue to do so," Broughton read. "We can truly see God through all of this. If anything is taken from our loss, we pray it is to never take family for granted, never let anything get in the way of showing your love and always say I love you."
As people arrived at the ceremony Monday, they were handed a candle to honor those who were lost. All gathered were offered the opportunity to speak or share stories about the family.
Pastor Doug Lewis asked for prayers of blessing and comfort upon the entire Chamberlain family, and he asked those gathered at the vigil be blessed as well.
Residents listened to inspirational music performed by the First Baptist Church of Elkins Choir and singers from Rivers of Living Water Ministry.
Balloons were released for each of the five family members who lost their lives.
Many of those attending brought children to the vigil, holding them tight throughout the solemn ceremony.