Fenton — A continuous ballad of sniffles underscored the solemn music, prayers and speeches at the candlelight vigil held at Fenton High School’s baseball diamond on Saturday.
Friends and family of Jesse Hourigan huddled in small circles, wielding tiny white candles, to pray, hope and sob together. Hourigan, who is 18 and battling leukemia, could not attend the vigil but later watched a tape recording of the ceremony. Even from his bed at Mott Children’s Hospital, he was able to see the 50-some people who came together under carefully hung white decorative lights and a large white banner explaining their intentions: “Praying for Jesse’s Miracle.”
Jesse, who recently turned 18, has chosen to discontinue his chemotherapy, which his family says is hurting more than helping. Jesse and his family stress the point that he is not quitting — just choosing a different path.
“We talked about having a vigil about a month ago. We’ve been praying for Jesse and his family all along,” said Jennifer Ingram, who helped to organize the vigil. “We want to lift him up. He needs a miracle now more than ever, that miracle being that he will be healed.”
Many of the attendees of the vigil knew of Hourigan’s struggle through The Fenton Freedom Center, the church the Hourigan family attended when Jesse was healthy enough to go.
“I hope everyone’s faith will give him hope,” Ingram said. “He’s been angry and worried. He needs others to believe in this miracle for him.”
Community members who helped to support the late Katie Wyatt, a 14-year-old girl who attended Fenton schools, and who lost her battle with cancer in 2011, also came to the vigil to show their support.
“We all felt so helpless,” said Mary Ann Beltinck, founder of the Katie Wyatt Foundation. “We all wanted to do something. Things like getting together like this means the world to the kids.”
The Katie Wyatt Foundation was created to support local children diagnosed with cancer. The Beltinck family and their associates hold fundraising events to grant wishes to these children. Hourigan was recently given tickets to see his favorite mixed martial artist, Georges St. Pierre in a UFC fight. He is waiting until he is well enough to use them.
“I remember when I first met Jesse, there was a fighting spirit about him. He loves UFC — I remember bringing in Nerf guns to the hospital room and shooting the nurses and doctors with him. I remember how he told me he was scared,” Logan Beltinck, a friend of Jesse’s, said during his speech at the vigil. “I told him that I had already lost Katie Wyatt and I wasn’t about to lose him too. Everything Jesse said stuck in my mind. It always will.”
Although Hourigan was not at the vigil, he still felt the support of his friends and family, and of people, he has never met.
“I’m amazed by all the people who don’t even know me but are coming out to support me,” said Jesse Hourigan. “I’m thankful for everyone who was there.”
Both Ingram and Mary Ann Beltinck say that the point of the vigil and the Katie Wyatt Foundation is to not only show support for the children fighting cancer, but to also extend kindness and help to the families.
“My whole family would like to express our heartfelt appreciations to the entire Fenton community for embracing us during this tremendous trial,” said Scott Hourigan, Jesse’s father. “Your presence at the vigil, continuing prayers and well-wishes express the exact message that Jesus professed so many years ago — to love your neighbor as you would love yourself. Thank you so very much.”