Community gathers to mourn second victim of tragic wreck
Dave Wilkinson, head coach of the North Carolina Thunder softball team, Friday remembered Kacie Chamberlain as a talented pitcher with a bright future.
He’d had big plans for her.
“But I believe the good lord looked down and said, ‘Kacie, you’re ready. You’re ready for the big leagues,’” Wilkinson said. “’I’m looking for a player with the talent and commitment that you have. I need your talent. I need you on our team. I’ve got big plans for you.’ He’ll be the one calling the pitches from now on.”
Chamberlain, a 16-year-old junior at Orange High School, died Dec. 29 when the truck she was riding in with Chase Underhill, McCray Williams and Sam Whaley veered off Little River Church Road at high speed and struck a tree.
Chamberlain and Underhill, the driver, died. None in the truck wore seatbelts. They had been racing, authorities say, against another truck driven by Collin Lunsford, 17, who was charged in the aftermath.
When Wilkinson finished his remarks, he joined Chamberlain’s teammates from the Thunder and from the Orange High Panthers softball team to gather around her casket and recite “The Lord’s Prayer.”
About 800 people filled New Horizon Church, a crowd that spilled out into the lobby, as a live band played “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “In the Sweet By and By,” “Amazing Grace” and “I’ll Fly Away.” Many who gathered in the church wore something pink – shirts, ribbons, ties – in honor of Chamberlain’s signature color.
The Rev. Craig Willingham, who officiated the ceremony, called Chamberlain “a breath of fresh air in a self-centered world.”
Her cousin, Gwen Hall-DiFabio, spoke of holding her for the first time after she was born in 1996. “It was the first time I truly fell in love with another person,” she said.
“Love just oozed out of her,” Hall-DiFabio said. “She was a child who gave hugs and blew kisses with reckless abandon.”
When Chamberlain died that night, just a few days after Christmas, she didn’t go to heaven alone, Hall-DiFabio said. “She entered hand in hand with one of her best friends.”
She said that Chamberlain’s father, John, told her that what happened to his daughter and her friends was “no more than evil at work in the world, trying to break our faith.”
“Everyone here today is broken-hearted,” Hall-DiFabio said. “I feel empty. I feel broken. And I just miss her.”
She urged the crowd not to lose faith that they will see Kacie Chamberlain again.
“If you really want to keep her legacy, give hugs and blow kisses with reckless abandon and appreciate people around you for what they are,” she said. “And, finally, never, ever miss an opportunity to tell people that you love them.”
The family has established a Kacie Chamberlain Scholarship Fund. Contributions can be sent to 7616 NC Highway 157, Rougemont, NC 27572.
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