By TOM GODFREY
Grieving community members braved the cold and sang hymns at an emotional vigil for three-year-old Elijah Marsh, who died tragically after wandering outside a North York apartment in sub-zero temperatures.
About 40 mourners held hands in a circle and prayed for Elijah and his family last Saturday in front of a Neptune Dr. building where the child was staying with his grandmother.
Mayor John Tory laid flowers on a growing memorial of teddy bears and toys left by mourners in front of the building.
Little Elijah, whose heart-wrenching death touched the country, was captured on a surveillance camera wandering away from the building about 4 a.m. last Thursday wearing only a T-shirt, diaper and winter boots.
The child was not reported missing until 7:30 a.m. when his family woke up and could not locate him.
A massive search was launched to find the boy that brought together more than 100 Toronto police officers and volunteer search teams, including a helicopter on loan from York Regional Police.
The Marsh family, who is said to have roots in Jamaica, have two other sons who are just devastated.
Grief-stricken mom, Georgette Marsh, was overcome by the memorial and thanked Canadians for all the love and support that the family has received.
“I cannot thank everyone enough for their support during this difficult time,” she said in a statement. “We’re so grateful for the generosity we’ve seen from Canadians and we’re all touched by the immense outpouring of love.”
She said the family is overwhelmed and heart-warmed by the support in a time of need.
Elijah’s father, Curt Barry, was thankful for the short time that he had with Elijah.
“A father is not supposed to outlive his child,” Barry said last week. “He is supposed to be playing in front of me with his brothers and to grow up to become an adult.”
Thousands who were touched by Elijah’s senseless death reached into their pocketbooks to help the grieving family cover funeral costs.
More than $170,000 was raised online in days from mourners who were affected by the death of the “happy child, who always had a smile on his face”.
The Tilt.com fundraising campaign was set up to raise $20,000 to help the family with their expenses.
Organizers have also created a trust fund to transfer the money so the family can gain access to the cash.
Justin Kozuch, the organizer of the campaign, said all the funds will be turned over to Elijah’s family.
“Many people were touched by Elijah’s tragic death and wanted to do something” said Kozuch. “His death touched people across this city and across the country and world.”
Tearful residents left notes on the fundraising site that they were heartbroken by the loss of such an innocent child.
“Our hearts bleed for the family and wee Elijah,” wrote David Pratley. “May this effort bring a legacy to such a wonderful person as Elijah.”
Roberta De Bellis said she prays for the grieving family.
“My heart breaks for Elijah’s family,” she said. “We can’t bring Elijah back, but we can all help out and make the family’s life a little easier.”
Anna Escobar said Baby Elijah touched many hearts and lives.
“RIP little man, you will always be remembered,” Escobar wrote. “My deepest sympathy to Elijah and his family.”
Donations can be made to any branch of Scotiabank. The account number is 1602 02853 23 and the transit number is 1602.
A non-profit group called Toronto Mommies have also raised $5,000 in a Facebook fundraiser for the Marsh family.