Raelynn Bell, a 9-year-old from Cumberland, was pronounced dead July 23 from injuries sustained in a Gorham car crash. GoFundMe

CUMBERLAND — Raelynn Bell was remembered July 25 at the Mabel I. Wilson Elementary School as someone who was a true friend and enthusiastic helper, who constantly said her week was great because she spent it with her classmates.

Several people remembered the child simply for her smile.

The Mabel I. Wilson School in Cumberland, where Raelynn Bell attended kindergarten through third grade, held grief support services July 25 for her fellow students. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

Bell was pronounced dead the morning of July 23 from injuries she received a day and a half before, when the SUV she traveled in with her father, Mike Bell, and two of her siblings was struck from behind by a pickup truck and pushed into oncoming traffic in Gorham.

According to a crash report, the driver of the truck told police he had fallen asleep at the wheel. Kenneth Morang, a corrections officer at the Cumberland County jail, had clocked out less than 30 minutes before the crash and was presumably on his way home after a 16-hour shift, Sheriff Kevin Joyce told the Portland Press Herald.

Gorham police said Morang has cooperated with the continuing investigation. No charges have been filed in the case.

Bell took the greatest impact in the crash and was taken via Life Flight helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where her family members were also hospitalized.

Bell, who had turned 9 just days before the crash and was on her way back from seeing “The Lion King” film, was kept on life support until her organs could be donated to aid others, her family told the Press Herald.

Wilson Principal Sally Loughlin said support from the school community was immediate. An online fundraising campaign to help pay the family’s medical bills, and for a memorial for Bell, also quickly exceeded its initial goal.

“Raelynn’s kindness is evident even in her passing, as her organs are being donated to save the lives of others. The family knows that is what she would have wanted,” Samantha and Amanda Marinko, who organized the campaign on behalf of Charity Chillington, Raelynn’s mother, stated on the initiative’s webpage.

The “Supporting Raelynn and the Bell Children” page at gofundme.com had reached $31,000 as of July 26, surpassing its $30,000 goal.

“There’s been an outpouring of support for the family,” School Administrative District 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter said Thursday. “I think people are just shocked. Losing a child in a community is a pretty rare event, especially suddenly like this. … This is just a really huge tragedy for everybody.”

Three SAD 51 social workers conducted a two-hour counseling session at Bell’s school July 25. Becky Dilworth, who is based at that school, said they were “providing a space for kids to come and share any feelings that they have, ask any questions they might have.”

Parents who attended were provided with information from the Portland-based Center for Grieving Children. Arts and other hands-on activities were offered, along with children’s books about grief.

“We’re just trying to help them express what they were thinking when they found out, how they’re feeling, how they’re processing,” Dilworth said, noting that some children shared that they’ve been experiencing nightmares.

“I think one of the best things is just knowing that people are there, feeling the same way that they are,” she said. “And to understand that what they’re feeling is natural, and that they’re going to have a lot of different feelings as they start to process this, and that’s OK. So if they’re grouchy one day, or they’re laughing one day, or they’re sad, that’s all normal.”

During the session, the children “seemed to shift their mood, and get more open, by play and art,” Dilworth said.

“There’s going to be a lot that this community deals with,” Loughlin added. “We are just happening to be part of a small support piece right now.”

She said she was impressed that one person with no children in the school brought water, food and flowers. And when she informed school staff about the accident, Loughlin said, one teacher was at her door within an hour to ask the family’s address, despite being on summer vacation.

“We forget what kind of bond teachers make with their students,” Loughlin said. “I think everyone appreciated this little girl.”

Updated on July 29, 2019.


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