By Jasmine Willis
WAYLAND — Deep sorrow has gripped a small community after the tragic loss of a first grader on Sept. 14.
Leah Clark, 6, of Wayland tragically lost her life in an accident on Route 63. She was no doubt eager to start the new school year with her friends. This loss has crippled her family, friends, school, and entire community.
A Snack Stick Fundraiser organized by family friend Krystyna Werndle, has already raised thousands for the funeral expenses.
Mr. Eric Williams was asked to get involved with the fundraiser and jumped right on board. He has small children of his own and wanted to help in some way.
“Krystyna started this fundraiser and asked me to help. The money will go to help for the cost of the funeral and the headstone,” he said. “My wife and I matched the first $300 worth of orders. It has continued to grow from there. We are already at $1,400 after one day of fundraising.”
People in different states have called in to place orders to bless this family. Walter E. Baird and Sons Funeral Home is taking care of Leah Clark’s funeral. Anyone who wishes to make a donation directly to the funeral home in order to help with the expenses can do so by reaching out to them at 585-728-2600. Be sure to leave a message making the donation for Leah Clark.
The funeral is on Sept. 27 from 1 to 4 p.m. at 300 West Naples Street in Wayland. The funeral home will work with the family as the donation money comes through. Any money that is left over will go to the Golisano Children’s Hospital in Leah Clark’s name.
Leah was a very happy and loving child. She adored the Dinky Doo Petting Zoo and Pony Rides Too. She had a lot of love for animals and babies. Her favorite thing was the Tooth Fairy who had all the magic in the world.
The Snack Stick Fundraiser goes until Oct. 7. Anyone interested in making an order to benefit Leah Clark’s funeral expenses can contact Mr. Eric Williams at 585- 519-8579 or Krystyna Werndle at 585-358-9113. The cost is $20 a bag. The proceeds will go to benefit the funeral expenses.
The beef sticks come from Wilson Beef Farms in Canaseraga.The flavors include regular, spicy, teriyaki, cheddar cheese, jalapeno cheese, honey barbeque, hot, raspberry chipotle, or habanero mango.
“I have kids of my own, so I have soft spot in my heart for what this family is going through. I love my community, and I want to help with the horrible tragedy any way that I can. I want to show what can happen when we all come together,” Williams said. “There are many people who didn’t even know Leah or her family that are coming together to help. It is very important that we all come together right now. We all need to help each other heal instead of being against one another.”
When all of the orders come in there will be an announcement of delivery or a pickup location.
“I think it is important that people realize how short life is, and to hold the ones you love close to your heart. It is important to love one another and to help one another. Be kind to others instead of crueL,” Williams said.
Cherie Carter, Owner of Dinky Doo Petting Zoo and Pony Rides Too said that Leah Clark loved being at the zoo every chance she could get. This was her safe and happy place to be. Carter said that her father, Derek Clark would bring her there to see the animals often.
“This is the worst thing any parent could ever go through. I hate that this happened here, but I know that Leah loved these animals. Her soul can feel safe here. She can be happy here with the animals. I think we should all pray for Derek right now, because he is going through a lot of pain. He really loved his baby,” she said. “I plan on doing something in Leah’s name here at the zoo soon. I had the family ask me to leave some stuffed animals and photos as a memorial, and I had no problem with that. I have spoken with the family and tried to comfort all of them in this very hard time.”
On Sept 14 at about 6:25 p.m., Derek Clark, 30, of Wayland was heading east on Route 63 when his car hit a guardrail and telephone pole, which caused the vehicle to flip over. Leah was in a booster seat in the back and was pronounced dead at the scene. Derek was charged with driving under the influence and second-degree vehicular manslaughter. He is now in Steuben County Jail.
Leah is survived by her parents, Derek Clark & Maria Smith; paternal grandparents, Lisa (Steve Pasquali) Clark & Elmond (Sherry) Clark; her maternal aunt & uncle: Kristi (Jay) Longbine & Patrick (Amy) Mullen; her paternal aunts: Jessica (Garrett) Williams, Alicia Clark, Kasey (Leo) Bricks & Angie Freas; her paternal great-grandparents: Edward Jr. & Sandy Freas and Mary Clark; her cousins: Nathan Longbine, Gage Butters, Rayna Krise, Haylen Mullen, Ethan Clark, Kendra Barnhardt, Carter Chabot, Lexi Williams, & Lincoln Bricks; and many cousins & friends.