Family, friends remember Kelli O'Laughlin on 15th birthday

April 2, 2012 8:31:00 PM PDT
Hundreds of people turned out in southwest suburban Indian Head Park to celebrate what would have been the birthday of a teenager who was killed during a break-in at her home last October.

Kelli O'Laughlin would have turned 15 on Monday, so her family and friends put together a celebration of her life.

"As Kelli once told me, 'Mom, you have no idea how many friends I have,'" said Brenda O'Laughlin, Kelli's mother. "My response was, 'yeah, you're right.' But I never realized that you had indeed touched so many lives."

O'Laughlin's classmates, detectives who worked the case, plus countless community members, through their presence, paid tribute.

"Kelly, Happy birthday. I love and miss you so much and I hope you have the best birthday ever," said one friend.

Five months ago, the teen who had a smile for everybody was in killed in her own home. Prosecutors charged a man who they say was burglarizing the house when Kelli interrupted him.

On Monday night, through song, tears and the release of balloons, her family and friends chose to honor O'Laughlin's life rather than focus on her death.

"I try to be a happy person and smile more because I know that would have been what Kelli wanted me to do," said Paige McMahon, friend.

O'Laughlin's friends and family have ringed trees with white ribbons and placed signs of support over the Tri-State Tollway. It's been like this since the day she died.

"It just came as a shock," said Kelsey Corcoran, friend. "One day she was here, the next day she wasn't. It was a huge shock. Our worlds just came tumbling down."

Corcoran is among the teens who week after week, month after month make sure the signs and ribbons serve as a reminder.

"I think it's very important to not let her legacy die with her. We make sure it stays alive. It reminds people of what happened and what an amazing girl she was," she said.

The balloons released Monday night carried with them notes, handwritten by Kelli's friends. They carry messages about the way she lived her life. The hope is people who find those messages will also carry on her legacy.