EXETER, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Remembering a “Rae” of sunshine. Dozens gathered in Luzerne County Wednesday night to commemorate the life of a 10-year-old girl who passed away earlier this month.
Raeann Merlino of West Pittston passed away on December 4 after her family says she battled a combination of RSV and the Flu.
Members of her school community and beyond came together to honor her legacy.
A large crowd gathered in Exeter to light up the night in honor of 10-year-old Raeann Merlino.
She was a cheerleader and fifth-grade student in the Wyoming Area School District.
During the emotional vigil, Raeann’s teammates sung a song that they say describes her personality best, a “Rae” of sunshine.
“She was sweet, kind and if someone, if the room was sad, she could always light it up,” said Isabella Polomski, Rae’s Friend.
“She was really, really nice. I loved her hugs, she was just such a kind person,” said Ashlee Gustitus, Rae’s Friend.
“She always used to say hi and give me hugs and stuff. I just miss that,” said Gabriella Griffith, Rae’s Friend.
People from all across the Wyoming Valley held candles as the girls released lanterns into the sky.
“It was really special because everyone came out from different places to celebrate and admire how nice and amazing she was,” said Avianna Dennison, Rae’s friend.
“Although it’s sad what happened, it’s really nice that we all came together and celebrated,” said Chloe Griffith, Rae’s friend.
“We had to be here, doesn’t matter how cold it is, to support our friend,” said Kelly Jordan & Kaleena Berkosky, Friends of the Merlino Family.
“Tonight was a good way to come together and get some closure, express how special this little girl was to our community, to the organization, to the school, and to all the people that are around her,” said Matt Berger, President of the Greater Wyoming Area Junior Warriors.
Wyoming Area fifth-grade students are hosting a stuffed toy drive in memory of Raeann.