The Wightman/Wieber Foundation anticipates raising $5,000 for Safety Celebration/ KidsFest, a free event attracting thousands of people each May at the Sandusky Bay Pavilion.
Raucous laughter and cheers arose from a full table of friends that included Mary McCartney and Steve Andres.
“We have been coming for four to five years,” McCartney said.
“It goes to a good cause, and it’s fun” Andres said.
A sentiment echoed by many people at the fundraiser.
The event has become a tradition, partly to better a tragic situation.
In 1989, teenagers Michelle Wightman and Karrie Ann Wieber were at a railroad crossing on Remington Avenue near Cleveland Road, waiting at a railroad crossing for a signal to cross; a stopped train blocked their view. After waiting for several minutes the girls decided to cross, and the car they were in was hit by another train.
KidsFest was born from that tragedy, to teach kids about safety in a fun environment and families how to be strong and united.
Darlene Lowery, formerly Wightman and the mother of Michelle, was again helping at the fundraiser. Along with Karleen Wieber, they co-founded the foundation.
“This is what the girls would want; they were both good hearted girls,” Lowery said.
To see the community come out helps to make the loss easier, she said.
“To keep the girls memory alive is important” Lowery said.
Saturday night’s dance was especially poignant because of the passing of co-founder Karleen Wieber at the age of 64.
A tribute was held in her honor.
A slideshow of photos displayed the laughter and strength of Wieber.
Photo after photo of Wieber featured her smile as she posed with family and friends, whether it was on a boat, in a park or at a kitchen table. There were a few photos of her in the hospital as she battled Leukemia.
Afterward a poem written by Wieber’s sister, Karen Petty, titled “I am still here,” was read, bringing several in attendance to tears with the first words.
“Just because you cannot see me does not mean I am not there. Just because I am in heaven does not mean I do not care”
Wieber’s daughter, Jennifer Chapman, took her mother’s place on the board.
“This (the dinner/ dance) was her second favorite thing. The first was KidsFest,” Chapman said. “She loved anything to do with kids”