Seminole County community came together Sunday night for the family of a 5-year-old girl who died after she was diagnosed with a brain stem tumor.
Her name was Caitlin Downing.
Before Caitlin’s death, her neighborhood was working to bring her one last Christmas by decorating their homes with lights.
Caitlin died before she could see it.
In her memory, more than 8,000 luminaries were lit in the Live Oak Reserve neighborhood during a luminary event for her and her family.
Her parents said that’s a touching gesture they will never forget.
“There was a moment where it was very quiet. There weren’t any cars that came down the road and it was very peaceful. We are again touched by the people that not only have set up luminaries, but that have actually come out to say hello and give hugs to strangers,” said Denise Downing, Caitlin’s mother. “Oviedo is an incredible place to live. We will forever be grateful for every single person here, that has cheered for our daughter and that continues to cheer for her.”
The neighborhood has more than 900 homes and most people don’t know the Downing family, but that didn’t stop neighbors from being in awe.
“Unbelievable. It’s just wonderful to see people come together like this. Unfortunately, such a sad occasion, but it’s so nice to actually see people do something for one little girl. It’s wonderful. It’s going to bring tears to my eyes,” said neighbor Claire Deangelis.
“She was a beautiful little girl and I have a 4-year-old in the house over there, so I can only imagine what the family is going through, but they must love to see that this community came together for them and for her," said neighbor Danielle Light.
That’s exactly why Caitlin’s father, Jeff Downing, wanted to say thanks.
“I just want to say thank you to everybody in the community. It’s amazing. We just love this place and we are really, really happy we live here and we wouldn’t live anywhere else,” Downing said.
Although Caitlin has died, her mother is still writing her “Cheering for Caitlin" blog and she’s working on a book about her daughter’s battle with brain cancer.