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Small, tight-knit community comes together to keep Athena Strand's memory alive

Small, tight-knit community comes together to keep Athena Strand's memory alive
Small, tight-knit community comes together to keep Athena Strand's memory alive 03:00

WISE COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM)  Two days after the body of 7-year-old Athena Strand was found a few miles away from her Cottondale home, her small tight knit community is coming together to keep her memory alive and support her heartbroken family. 

It's hard to miss all of the pink spread throughout the community on the road heading from Boyd into Paradise.

"We just wanted to show support for the Strand family. It's a tight knit community around here. Even though it's one town over, we're all family," said Heather King, a Boyd resident.

King is just one of at least a dozen neighbors who traveled around town Sunday decorating with pink ribbons, balloons, and anything else pink they could find. Pink was Athena Strand's favorite color.

Now the community is lit up in pink in memory of her.

"We're gonna focus on her and the good things and the love that she brought and we're not gonna focus on the tragedy," said King as she decorated a fence with Athena's name alongside another neighbor.

Athena was first reported missing by her stepmother on Wednesday evening. Her body was found two days later on Friday after, investigators say, 31-year-old Fedex contract driver Tanner Horner confessed to abducting her from her Cottondale home and killing her.

"This is not what we want our town to be remembered by. We're a loving community; we don't want this tattooed on our city," said King.

Rod Townsend the superintendent of Paradise ISD, the district where Athena attended elementary school, said the district will have additional counselors available at the elementary and middle schools on Monday and that they will honor Athena at a later date.

In a statement to CBS 11, Superintendent Townsend said, "We want to be respectful and let family and friends work through this horrible tragedy." 

More than 25 other local school districts have asked staff and students to wear pink on Monday to show support for the Paradise community and Athena Strand's family. 

 "I had this idea to make these little pendants that people can add to their necklace or keychain," said Misty Souimaniphanh, a resident of Boyd. "I just felt like it was something that I needed to do."

Souimaniphanh is giving out little pink hearts with wings for free to anyone who wants to show their support. In big ways and small, community members are doing everything they can to show their love for Athena and her family.  

"That's just what this community does," said Souimaniphanh. "That's what small town America does."

If you are interested in donating to Athena's family, you can find their GoFundMe online.

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