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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

Asheville community rallies to support family

ASHEVILLE — The Catholic community in Asheville has bonded together to bring love, support and help after a tragic crash Sept. 26 took the lives of two Arden brothers.

Asheville Catholic School student William Gibbs, 10, and his brother who also had attended the school, O’Brien Gibbs, 13, died when the car they were riding in veered off Mills Gap Road and struck a tree. Their older brother and their mother, Jo Gibbs Landreth, were injured.

In the days following the crash, a Go Fund Me campaign set up by Asheville Catholic School has raised $150,000 to help the family, but that’s not all the community has done, said Principal Michael Miller.

“The Asheville Catholic School broader community has been extremely supportive of certainly the family involved, and also of the school,” Miller said.

“The community’s response has been more than anyone could have asked for or expected. It’s very inspiring and comforting on many levels.”

He said it was tough on all of the staff and students to hear the news, especially the boys’ classmates. Diocese of Charlotte Schools Superintendent Dr. Janice Ritter “mobilized” counselors from other schools, and the morning after the tragedy they were on hand at Asheville Catholic School to talk to students and staff, Miller said.

In the days that followed, families of students dropped in to offer encouragement and brought treats to brighten everyone’s day, he added. “A million little things by one and all to help us all get through the loss.”

From counseling to financial planning, members of the community have also offered their individual expertise to the family affected. A family with an extra vehicle has even given Landreth a car to use until she is able to get a replacement vehicle, Miller said.

Asheville Middle School, where Landreth works, has coordinated a meal train with Asheville Catholic School and with assistance from their fellow parishioners at St. Barnabas Church in Arden, who are making desserts for the family.

“All three of the boys were altar servers – the oldest still is,” said Father Adrian Porras, pastor of St. Barnabas Church. “It’s a big loss for our community, and it’s felt when we celebrate Mass.”

Parishioners have reached out in many ways to Landreth, who is also active in the parish, he said. When things settle down, the parish will be there to continue providing support, he said.

As the Asheville Catholic School community moves forward, Miller said, students are already making plans to remember their classmate, William.

The robotics team, as part of this year’s competition, has plans to construct a rain garden in his honor, Miller said.

There has also been a donation set up for a drama scholarship at the school in his name.

Through the outcry of love and support, Miller said what is needed now most is prayer. He asks that everyone continue to pray for healing.

— Kimberly Bender, Online reporter

Concord community grieves loss of two teenagers

CONCORD — St. James the Greater Parish has been in mourning after a hit-and-run accident claimed the lives of Concord High School students Jessie Marroquin Avelino, 14, and Ricardo Solano, 15.

Concord police have charged driver Francisco Daniel Marin-Gonzalez, 21, with several counts including felony hit-and-run and felony death by motor vehicle, according to local news reports. Police said Gonzalez fled the scene after hitting and killing the teenagers the night of Sept. 30 as they crossed Concord Parkway North near Liske Avenue. He remains in the Cabarrus County jail under a $1 million secured bond.

Church members grieved for the youths’ deaths during a funeral held Oct. 5 at St. James Church.

In his homily, Redemptorist Father Fabio de Jesus Maron Morales, said, “Ricardo and Jessie: those sons, those brothers, those friends are now in the hands of God. In those hands that have created them and also created us, in those hands in which one day when our pilgrimage on this earth is over, we will also be. There, we will all together be able to enjoy the presence of God.

“These young boys are now with God. So now we have to accompany them with our prayers and remembrance, united with Jesus Christ who died and rose again for us. This departure, aside from the hurt that it causes to the broken heart, will make us think of the joy in finding the presence of our Lord.”

He read from Wisdom 3:1-9: “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace...”

In the wake of the sudden tragedy, counselors and crisis response team members were on hand at Concord High School when students returned to school Oct. 2. Students wore white to honor their classmates, WBTV reported Oct. 2.

“I was speechless,” Leslie Moreno told WBTV. “I didn’t know what to do or say.”

Moreno, who was friends with Avelino, said she will miss him. “He was just so caring and kind,” she said.

The victims’ friend and recent Concord High graduate Yara Quezada started a fundraising campaign on YouCaring to collect funds to cover the families’ funeral costs. Earlier this week the campaign exceeded its goal of $6,000, raising a total of $6,766.

“The families are grieving and the last thing they should worry about is money. I hope that we will be able to come together in the midst of this tragedy to help out two young Spiders who were taken from us too young,” Quezada wrote.
— Catholic News Herald