An emotional evening with snippets of humor, heartwrenching moments and a sea of pink shirts capped off with a moving and fitting tribute as hundreds of balloons were released into the sky above in honor of Gabriella Vogel.
After going through a hellish 3½-month battle with a rare, aggressive form of brain cancer, Gabby passed away on Sept. 11. Her sixth birthday was Oct. 9, and the family and their supporters held a celebration of life for Gabby on Sunday evenng.
John Vogel, Gabby's father, spoke to the huge crowd gathered in Reeves Park Sunday night. An army of volunteers helped spruce up the park on Saturday, and then they came out Sunday to blow up balloons, string lights and create an "enchanted forest" to honor the little girl's memory.
Vogel said he took far too much for granted prior to his youngest daughter's passing. Gabby would ask him if they could play together with the trucks and action figures he collects, and he would brush her off, telling her they'd get to it next weekend.
"Whoever thinks you're not going to have a next Saturday or Sunday?" Vogel said.
He told the throngs of people gathered that he still has a recording of the last time his Gabby told him she loved him—on June 2 at 7 p.m.
"Every so often I listen to it," Vogel said.
He urged those listening to "make every second of your life count" and pay it forward, as Gabby would have done. Vogel said earlier in the day he dropped off money at the Build-a-Bear store in King of Prussia. The money was for the next children who came in, to cover the cost of their bears. That was something Gabby would've wanted, he said, and was her birthday gift to those kids.
"She was ripped from us way too early," Vogel said. "She would've been an amazing adult."
Vogel said he hopes to start a foundation for childhood cancer. The foundation would raise money for research into the disease and help create awareness.
In addition to hearing from members of the Vogel family, those in the crowd also watched a 13-minute tribute video created by Dan Fullam. You can watch the video by clicking on the thumbnail above.
At the very end of the evening, with Reeves Park glowing by candlelight, luminarias and white holiday lights, hundreds of balloons were passed out. The four Vogels held a lantern lit by fire that was released into the sky, and after that, the crowd released the balloons, some glowing with lights inside, into the dark sky.
The balloons were Gabby's favorite color—pink—and the tribute was reminiscent of a scene from Gabby's favorite film, "Tangled." There's a video clip above that shows the release of the balloons.
For more information on Gabby Vogel, visit www.getwellgabby.org.