Coming together in Carmi: southern Illinois city giving back to family of fallen deputy

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CARMI, Ill. (WEHT)- Days after Wayne County Sheriff’s Deputy Sean Riley was killed in the line of action, volunteers at the Christmas Lights of Hope in nearby Carmi called his death “heartbreaking. A tragedy that did not need to happen.”

But as Riley’s family grieves- organizers for the annual event at the White County Fairgrounds say they wanted to give back. Lance Yearby has family that serves in law enforcement and says he was in shock when he heard of what happened to Deputy Riley. Yearby says he’s been at a loss of words since Riley’s death, saying it could’ve happened to any officer- even his own nephew.

Yearby says he decided to donate all the proceeds raised by the light display Friday night- the final night of the event- to Riley’s family. While he admits it won’t be enough to “replace what they’ve lost,” Yearby says he hopes the family can take some solace in the gesture and hopes it will help.

For Dawn Long and Ruth Wicker, the tragedy hits especially close to home- Long and Wicker each have children serving in law enforcement. Long says she hoped she would wake up to find out it never happened, but Wicker says it’s a reality they, other families, and law enforcement have to live with.

Still, Wicker and Long say they wanted to help and give back to Riley’s family. People who came out to the display or the skating rink were asked to make a recommended donation of $5, and organizers say they’ve been able to see the generosity of the Tri-State shine through.

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