From business entrances, to front porches, to apartment balconies and more, red balloons can be spotted throughout St. Thomas, Ont., on Monday as the community unites to mark what would have been Aiden Curtis’s 12th birthday.
Curtis was killed and four others were injured, including one woman critically, when five pedestrians were struck by a pickup truck that left the roadway and entered a sidewalk on Tuesday afternoon.
“You can drive through the town of Saint Thomas right now and just physically see the love and support that this family has been given in such a tragic time,” Shelley Summers, who performs as Dotsy the Clown, said Monday.
Summers says Curtis would come into her shop, Dotsy’s Entertainment Co., often around Halloween and he was counting down until he could volunteer in their haunted house.
After learning of the red balloon initiative last week, she says she wanted to find a way to help. She and some other performers pooled their red balloons together and then she posted on Facebook that they’d sell them $10 for 12 balloons in order to cover the cost of helium.
“Within 45 minutes, we had 50 orders come in,” she said.
“Sunday morning we started inflating at 7 a.m. and we inflated 600… We had run out of helium because 600 balloons is one entire tank of helium. We took the rest of the red balloons and just sat them in the mailbox. So there was probably 100 and 150 or so left over. And we put those in the mailbox last night at 6:00, and this morning they were all gone as well.”
A popular Facebook page for community members was filled with posts on Monday, showing red balloons at homes, offices, police headquarters, apartment buildings, and more.
Summers said the community response perfectly encapsulates why she lives in a small town.
“Because when something horrible does happen, people rally. Like, everybody in this town has come together. And even if they didn’t know Aiden, it doesn’t matter, they’re here to support the family.”
The young boy has been described as someone whose smile could light up a room and who will be dearly missed by his parents and two siblings as well as all who knew him. A funeral service is scheduled for Tuesday and the family has asked that memorial donations be made to MADD Canada or to the CNIB.
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“Having to lay your son to rest the day after his birthday is… Being a mom, I just can’t even understand how that would feel. The Curtis family just needs to know that the community is here for them.”
In addition to the red balloon campaign, some area businesses have collected donations. A GoFundMe set up to support the family has raised more than three times its $10,000 goal as of Monday afternoon.
A 19-year-old is facing charges related to impaired driving in the case.
— with files from Global News’ Amy Simon.
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