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Community says goodbye to beloved Hilmar girl
When viewed from above, the hundreds of paper lanterns that dotted the Hilmar High School football field in Kaiden Pachecos honor spelled out her name during Wednesday nights candlelight vigil. - photo by CANDY PADILLA/The Journal

Hundreds of turquoise balloons were released into the sky during a Wednesday evening candlelight vigil in honor of nine-year-old Kaiden Pacheco, who passed away last week after a two-year battle with cancer.

Each balloon bouquet was made up of nine balloons that represented each year of Kaiden’s life before she was “granted her angel wings” on Feb. 18. She was only months away from her tenth birthday.

“I feel so blessed that I was not only able to call Kaiden my best friend, but my little sister. She was a brave, beautiful warrior,” said friend Erin Benning in front of the hundreds who attended Wednesday’s vigil. “Although Kaiden can no longer be with us on earth, she is still with us in our hearts and looking down on us from above.”

Kaiden was diagnosed with stage 4 Rhabdomyosarcoma, a malignant tumor that attacks muscles, in April 2014. Common sites include head and neck, urinary and reproductive organs, arms and legs, and trunk.

Benning befriended Kaiden in 2014 after she heard of Kaiden’s diagnosis, which prompted her to start Karing for Kaiden, a fundraising effort for Kaiden and her family. The Hilmar High School student even made a short film titled “The Impact of Giving Back” about Kaiden’s story, which went on to be one of 15 selections played during the White House Student Film Festival last year.

Along with the turquoise balloons that dotted the football field at Hilmar High School on Wednesday, there were hundreds of paper lanterns decorated in Kaiden’s honor with messages along the lines of “I’m going to miss you a lot, Kaiden” to “beautiful Kaiden is resting in paradise, do not damper your heart” to “stay in my heart, stay in all of us united.” When viewed from above, they spelled out her name.

“You don’t need to see the invisible string,” recited Benning from “The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst. “People who love each other are always connected by a very special string made of love. Even though you can’t see it with your eyes you can feel it with your heart and know that you are always connected to everyone you love.”

Hundreds who attended Wednesday night’s vigil concluded the service by taking a lap in silence around the high school track and listening to Kaiden’s favorite song, “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. A moment of silence, similar to the one that started the service, culminated the evening.

Following Wednesday’s vigil, family and friends of Kaiden gathered again on Thursday for visitation and rosary services. Funeral Mass for Kaiden will be on Friday at 10 a.m. at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church, 20323 American Ave in Hilmar. The family encourages all attending Kaiden’s services to wear her favorite color turquoise in her honor.