WELLSBURG - The launching of balloons prior to the Follansbee Middle School football game Wednesday is one of several ways pupils, staff and others have been remembering 13-year-old Hannah Mozingo, who was killed in the natural gas explosion that destroyed her family's home Oct. 11.
And various groups continue to hold fundraisers to help the family.
Football players from Follansbee Middle School, where Mozingo was an eighth-grader, were joined by their athletic rivals from Wellsburg Middle School in releasing hundreds of balloons of blue and white - the Follansbee school's colors - before competing in their annual matchup.
PAYING TRIBUTE — Before their football game Thursday at Brooke Memorial Stadium, members of the Follansbee Blue Wave and Wellsburg Orange Knight football teams and many other pupils at Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools, parents and other community members released balloons in memory of Hannah Mozingo. An eighth-grader at Follansbee Middle School, Mozingo was killed in the Oct. 11 natural gas explosion that destroyed her family’s home. -- Warren Scott
They were joined by many other pupils and staff from both schools as well as parents and other community members on the football field at Brooke Memorial Stadium.
Before the balloons were released, the Rev. Dan Cooper of Hooverson Heights Church of Christ used the stadium's public address system to read a poem reflecting on the occasion.
Kathy Younciak, a friend of the Mozingos, offered thanks on the family's behalf for the tribute and the various fundraisers that have been held for them.
"With all their heart they want you to know how much they appreciate all of you," she said, adding, "They are getting better and see your love for Hannah in every one of these activities."
George and Tracy Mozingo and their daughter, Haley, a student at Brooke High School, have been recovering from serious injuries sustained in the blast that leveled their home on Eldersville Road.
Before the game, the Follansbee Middle School Blue Wave cheerleaders gathered on the field with a banner reading "FMS - Rough and Tough and Hannah Strong."
"Hannah Strong" has been sort of a motto for students at Brooke High School and Follansbee Middle School, who remember Hannah both as a cheerleader with the city's youth football league, also known as the Blue Waves, and an avid hunter.
Iris Ferrell, a volunteer with the city league cheerleading squad, described Hannah as both energetic and polite and nice.
"In my book, she is an angel of God because she has brought together people throughout the community for her family," Ferrell said.
As attendees entered the stadium, they dropped cash into a bucket designated for donations to the Mozingos.
Nancy Deters, assistant principal at Follansbee Middle School, said pupils and staff at Follansbee Middle School have been trying to come to terms with the tragic incident, which occurred as many were on their way to school.
"We're trying to support our kids because they're having a hard time with it and so are the teachers," Deters said.
She said the pupils have been encouraged to express their feelings. One way has been through paper angels on which they may write a public message on the front and a private message, for the Mozingo family, on the back.
The angels are displayed in one of the school's halls.
"We have a wall pretty much filled and we're moving to another wall," Deters said.
She said rubber bracelets honoring Hannah and sold elsewhere as a fundraiser for the Mozingos were given, through an anonymous donor, to each of the school's eighth-graders.
Deters said there are plans for a school dance to benefit the family.
Many others have scheduled events to help the Mozingos.
They include the Bethany College chapter of Kappa Delta Phi, an international education honor society, which is holding a canned good drive until Nov. 8.
Angela Icard, the chapter's advisor and assistant reading professor at Bethany, said, "For field placements, observations and student teaching, many of our education majors are placed in Brooke County Schools. Brooke County students, teachers and staff are part of our extended family."
Canned goods and other necessities may be dropped off at the college's cafeteria, Morlan Hall, T.W. Phillips Memorial Library, McCann Writing Center, Hurl Education Center and the Office of Student Life.
Gift cards and monetary donations will be accepted only at the library.
Vito's 2 restaurant will hold a spaghetti dinner from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The cost is $10 per person. Advance and takeout orders are encouraged by calling (304) 527-4440.
Mustang Sally's, a bar not far from the Mozingos' home, will hold a Halloween party to benefit the family at 8 p.m. Oct. 31.
Admission of $5 and proceeds from a Chinese auction and T-shirt sale will go to the family. There also will be music by the Iron Skillet band, a costume contest and food.
Hillbillies for Hannah, an informal group, will hold a benefit concert featuring The Hillbilly Way at 7 p.m. Nov. 7. at the Serbian-American Cultural Center in Weirton. The cost is $20 for adults and $10 for students 18 and under.
A fund also has been established at Progressive Bank. Donations may be made in care of the Mozingo family, Progressive Bank, 744 Charles St., Wellsburg WV 26070.
Call (304) 737-0821 for information about the account.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)