OLYMPIA, WA— Hundreds of friends and family gathered Wednesday night at Ingersoll Stadium on the campus of Olympia High School for a vigil for Austin Kelley. Kelley has been missing since Sunday when he went under in rough water on the Salmon River in Idaho.
The vigil took place on the same pitch that Kelley starred as a striker for the Olympia High School Bears before going on to play for the Saint Martin’s Saints in Lacey and eventually also the Oly Town Artesians in the Western Indoor Soccer League.
Those in attendance bravely tried to stick to a message of hope, so difficult as the hours pass and disbelief sinks in, followed by a welling up of pure grief. As the stadium went dark behind the setting sun and the Kelley family arrived, hugs and silence gave way to tears and sobs. Quickly a bench was brought over to the vigil as several family members were unable to stand they were so overcome by the event.
Everyone wants to #BringAustinHome, but somehow as cell phones were lifted and photos of Austin and his family were lit by lights, it began to garner the feel of a memorial service of sorts.
Several in the Kelley family bravely spoke and thanked the community for their support. They spoke of hope for Austin’s survival somewhere along the banks of the river. They talked of his spirit, his kindness, even calling him a sort of non-religious “prophet” of love for others.
Oly Town Artesians goalkeeper Melvin Blacketer spoke about being welcomed as a rare local Native American soccer player. In one Artesians team photo Blacketer and Kelley can be seen arm in arm. Blackleter then sang a tribal song about finding your way back home.
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