Elburn mourns joyful teen

By on May 2, 2013

Photo: Caityln Phillips’ immediate family embraces as community members gathered on Tuesday at the intersection of North Third and Reader streets in Elburn to remember her. Caitlyn Phillips, a 13-year-old who was killed on Friday after colliding with a car while rollerblading. Photo by Kimberly Anderson

ELBURN—Caitlyn Phillips, or “Caity,” as she was known to her friends, was by all accounts a special girl. Described by those who knew her as “bubbly,” “a peacemaker” and “a precious, beautiful spirit,” the 13-year-old who loved sunshine, babies and hugs wasn’t able to stop herself from skating into the street on Friday afternoon, colliding with an oncoming car.

A seventh-grade student at Kaneland Harter Middle School, Caity was in-line skating on a steep incline on East Reader Street, near her house in the 500 block of South First Street in Elburn, at about 3:30 p.m. when she entered the North Third Street intersection. The car she collided with was driven by a 34-year-old woman, also of Elburn, who was traveling north on Third Street at the time.

The Elburn Police Department and the Elburn Fire Department responded to the incident, and the Elburn Fire Department paramedics immediately took Phillips to the Emergency Room at Delnor Hospital in Geneva. Medical personnel there pronounced her deceased at approximately 4:30 p.m.

The Kaneland School District posted an announcement on its website to the families in the area to let them know of the tragic accident. Although administrators had few details at the time, the communication stated that they wanted to extend their deepest condolences and sympathy to Caity’s family and friends.

As more people became aware of the tragedy, many came forward to offer their help, love and support. The Rev. Russ Hurst, pastor of Calvary West Church in Sugar Grove, where services will be held for Caity, said he was “inspired” by how many people were there to offer their support to her family. As Hurst met with the Phillips family on Sunday afternoon, he said there were 20 to 25 people surrounding them, with another 15 or so spilling out in the yard, because there wasn’t enough room for them all in the house.

“Sparkplug” is the word that comes to Hurst’s mind when he recalls Caity.

“Every time I saw her, she had a huge smile, and light just shone off her face,” he said. “She was always happy and hugging everyone. She lived life to the fullest, and she brought a lot of life to her family. She was a very, very special girl. She honestly was an angel.”

Hurst said Caity’s mom, Crystal, and two sisters, Jordan and Taylor, were an active part of the greeter’s ministry, helping to greet people before and after the service.

“They’re very friendly and outgoing,” he said. “A lot of the people (in the congregation) know them.”

The funeral service, which will take place at the Calvary West Church on Friday, May 3, will be a celebration of Caity’s life, and will include her favorite song, “You Are My Sunshine.”

“They (the family) want everyone to sing that song in her honor,” Hurst said.

Crystal said that Caity gave the best hugs; that you really felt her love when she hugged you. If she thought you were rushing through a hug, she would call you on it.

“She’d say, ‘Mom, that was a quickie,’” Crystal said. “She was so affectionate. She would set her alarm for 5 a.m. so that she could come in and cuddle with me before she got ready for school.”

Caity was a peacemaker. If she got into an argument with someone, she would write them a letter apologizing, even if it wasn’t her fault.

“She forgave people so easily,” Crystal said. “She was better than me. I will spend the rest of my life trying to do half of what she would want me to do.”

While Crystal struggles to understand why Caity was taken so soon, she said she is so grateful for her neighbors and friends, and people she doesn’t even know, who have sent messages of love.

“I don’t even have the words to express the love and appreciation I feel,” she said. “We’re blessed beyond words.”

The Harter Middle School Support Team arranged for additional counselors and staff for the first few days of the week to provide support to the grieving students and staff. Conley Outreach provided information regarding teens and grieving at its website, www.conleyoutreach.org.

In lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established in Caity’s name. Checks may be made to the “Caitlyn Phillips Memorial” and mailed in care of P.O. Box 66, Elburn, 60119.

Individuals may also deposit directly into an account set up in her name at Old Second Bank, 749 N. Main St., Elburn. Memorial tributes may also be forwarded to the P.O. Box or on the web at www.conleycare.com. Arrangements were handled with care by Conley Funeral Home.