Strafford residents know the importance of community.
And when tragedy hit the town of less than 2,500 people this week, they did what they have always done. They stuck together.
Much of Hailey Owens' family on her dad's side has strong connection to Strafford. When the news came that the 10-year-old had been killed, the community members made a plan to help support the family.
Hailey's dad, aunt, grandmother and grandfather are expected to attend a Chili Supper and Fundraising Dinner in Strafford this afternoon. Community members and Strafford Fire Department firefighters started cooking chili Friday for the dinner. Donations of goods and services to be raffled and auctioned off to raise money for Hailey's family were still pouring in Friday evening.
Chandra Calhoun, Hailey's aunt, said she is overwhelmed by all the support.
"It blows my mind how one little girl can bring the world together," she said.
Duane "Odie" Lowery, Hailey's grandfather, said of his hometown: "Everyone gets behind everybody and supports whatever needs they need, especially in these types of situations. We're trying to do our part down here. It's rough on everybody."
"We have a good community," he said.
Lowery has worked as a mechanic in Strafford for 25 years and owns Odie's Auto Repair. Calhoun worked at the city's fire department for more than a decade. Hailey's grandmother, Tammy Lowery, works at the Harter House in Strafford that donated the food for the dinner.
Regina Poissonnet is a family friend who is helping to cook the chili dinner. Her husband, Laurent Poissonnet, worked with Calhoun at the fire department for many years. She said she had to do something to help the family and honor Hailey.
"She was one of those kids that touched your heart," Poissonnet said. "Everyone remembers Hailey."
Hailey was born on Aug. 18, 2003 at St. John's Hospital, now Mercy. When she was young, she lived in Marshfield, where her grandmother lives now. For a brief time the family lived out of state, but in recent years have lived in Springfield.
She lived full-time with her mother and stepfather, Jeff and Stacey Barfield — who married seven years ago — and her brother, Markus Owens, 12. Calhoun said Jeff Barfield works with computers and Stacey Barfield is a day care worker. Hailey's dad, Ryan Owens, is a professional painter.
Hailey's dad did not have custody of her, but Calhoun said they saw each other as often as they could.
Hailey was in fourth grade at Westport Elementary. The last time she went to school was on Valentine's Day, according to the school. Monday was a holiday and Tuesday she stayed home.
Hailey's family described her as an outgoing little girl who loved life.
"Hailey was just a joy. She was my sunshine," Calhoun said. "She didn't know what a bad mood was. She just enjoyed life."
Calhoun said the last time she saw her niece was at Christmas. She said her husband bought her a tablet for Christmas and Hailey was so excited to take photos and videos of herself.
"She liked being the center of attention," Calhoun said laughing.
Hailey's grandfather said one of his favorite memories with her was this Christmas. That was the last time he saw Hailey as well.
"She wanted to sit by me and unwrap her presents," Lowrey said with a smile. "That was nice."
He said he bought her makeup, dolls and "princess stuff."
Calhoun said she saw Hailey nearly every month. Though her brother is divorced from Hailey's mom, Calhoun said she has a good relationship with the Barfields.
She said that has been helpful as the two families work together to plan Hailey's funeral. "It's going to be chaotic, but it's going well."
Calhoun said Hailey's brother, Markus, is doing OK since learning of his little sister's death. She said he stayed at her house Wednesday night and she showed him on Facebook how many people had left their porch lights on to support Hailey. That night, 136,000 people reported leaving their lights on.
She said, "His eyes got real big and his jaw dropped and he said, 'That's all for my sister?' I said, 'You have no idea how many lives she has touched.' "
"Hailey couldn't have been luckier with a big brother," Calhoun said. "He loved his little sister from the minute she was born."
Calhoun said her whole family is still in disbelief.
"I'm not gonna forget it, but I'm gonna learn how to deal with it and make sure to keep her memory alive and make sure Markus continues to grow up and be the big brother he planned on being and grow into a good man."
On Thursday, Calhoun got a tattoo that reads "Hailey" with a pink and purple flower on either side of the lettering.
"When I see these flowers, I think of Hailey. They're sunflowers, she "was my sunshine," she said. "Being able to wake up and look at that every morning is what is going to help me get through every day until I learn to cope with it."