One week after the tragic loss of Luciano Carmine Franco, members of the Jefferson community gathered to encircle the family and community in love and light. The event started at the Community Association of Prospect Point (CAPP) Beach. Over 200 family members, community members, Jefferson Township fire, police, and rescue all gathered on the beach with candles in hand to remember and mourn the loss of three-year-old Luciano.

Jefferson Township Mayor Eric Wilsusen and council members Jay Dunham and Kim Finnegan were also in attendance.

CAPP beach President April Leaver began the program with opening remarks. Leaver said, “We gather here tonight in memory of Luciano, but also to show our community support of the family. Not just today, but in the weeks and months to follow and as long as we are needed. We hope tonight we can take a step towards healing.”

Leaver then welcomed Luciano’s mother, Lynsi DeFalco, to address the community. DeFalco thanked everyone for their outpouring of love and support as they are coping with their unimaginable loss. Luciano’s father, John Franco, and many members of the extended family were in attendance to support one another.

Next, Pastor Amanda Rohrs-Dodge of the Hurdtown and Lake Hopatcong United Methodist Church lead the gatherers in prayer to help console and comfort. “We gather together as friends, neighbors, family, as community, to remember the life of one of our little ones, a child that brought joy, laughter, love, and light to all who met him. A child whose very name meant light: Luciano.” Rohrs-Dodge remarked that there are no words that can make this tragedy go away and answered the unspoken question of what to do now. “We turn to one another with compassion and gentleness. We make space for grief, and anger, and more grief. We point to glimmers of light, beacons of hope, when all seems lost. We sigh with sighs too deep for words... and we pray.”

Once the program had concluded, members began the candlelight walk around the community. The Jefferson Township Police lead the walk, and the Jefferson Township Fire Company #2 followed the participants. They walked with their candles up New Jersey Avenue, turned onto Illinois Street, and then went down Schwartz Blvd to end at the beach club. Dawn Thomas, LCSW, a local grief counselor, was available for the crowd at the event’s conclusion.

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