COUNTRYSIDE, Ill. (CBS) — Family, friends, classmates and coaches of Kelli O’Laughlin gathered Friday to honor the murdered suburban teen.
Kelli, 14, was stabbed to death inside her Indian Head Park home Oct. 27 after she walked in on a man burglarizing her home.
Organizers are called Friday’s event “An Evening of Hope” because they hope no other family or community will have to endure the pain Kelli’s family has.
They chose tennis as a way to raise money, because it was Kelli’s passion. Hundreds packed Score Tennis and Fitness in Countryside for a fund-raiser.
Among those attending were Kelli’s tennis teammates and her coach from Lyons Township High School.
“It’s been a rough past two weeks, but we’ve all been there for each other, and we’re helping each other get through,” one of Kelli’s tennis teammates, Megan Rada, told CBS 2’s Mai Martinez.
Even those who played against Kelli wanted to show their support.
“I didn’t know this girl personally, but I played her, and she was a great player, and my heart goes out to her family,” Alex Gentile said.
Kelli’s coach says that kind of support from strangers speaks volumes about the person she was.
“If she lost, she carried herself well. If she won, she carried herself well,” Bill Wham said.
The owners of Score Tennis & Fitness, where Kelli and her father were both members, say it was community love of Kelli that prompted them to hold the fundraiser.
“She affected so many of us with her smile and her wonderful outlook on life, and we just wanted to give back to the community and allow them a chance to help the family heal,” Karla Wakim said.
As a remembrance of the evening, bracelets bearing the words “Live, Love, Laugh,” and Kelli’s name were handed out. They were purple because it was Kelli’s favorite color.
The event was originally organized to raise money for the reward fund for information leading to Kelli’s killer. Now that John L. Wilson, Jr. has been charged with her murder, the money raised will go to Kelli’s family to use as they see fit.
The owners of Score Tennis & Fitness say they have also created a tennis scholarship in Kelli’s honor.