Gavin School community holds tree dedication for sisters killed in Ingleside fire


INGLESIDE, Ill. – It’s been nearly six months since tragedy struck a close-knit community in northwest suburban Ingleside, resulting in the death of two sisters.

Both students at Gavin School in Ingleside, 8-year-old Lizzie Evans and her five-year-old sister Autumn, were killed in a second-alarm fire in their home on Dec. 10.

“As soon as it happened, we had that conversation with our kids about maybe not seeing their friends anymore, finding them in rainbows, finding them in the sunshine trying to make sure their memories live on,” said Brandi Koonce, a Gavin school parent.

Last December, WGN spoke to a neighbor one day after the fatal house fire. “I heard them coming, I heard the fire,” said Kathleen Donnelly on Dec. 11. “I heard my neighbor screaming and saying her kids were still in the house.”

Lizzie Evans, 8, and her five-year-old sister Autumn. (File photo)

The girls were asleep inside the home with their older brother Corey, their grandparents, and their mother, Katie Evans when flames broke out. Evans tried to get her girls out of the burning home but couldn’t get to them through the flames. Eventually, she had to jump from a second-story window. Her son, Corey, also made it out of the burning home. Firefighters rescued Evans’ parents.

“It’s a very tragic thing,” said Gavin School District 37 Board President Jim Miller. Miller has a young son who attended school with the sisters.

“Henry is a first grader here, so he’s younger, and they were both young kids,” Miller said. “It was very difficult, just explaining to them what had happened.”

The school started the #GavinStrong program to help students get throught the tragedy and give back.

Today, on the last day of school, students placed handmade ‘kindness’ rocks around a ‘Tree of Life’ they planted in memory of the Evans girls, dedicated to their family. 
“It’s absolutely terrible what happened and the kids losing their friends,” Koonce said. “Obviously, some of their close friends are still struggling with it today. But we’re trying to make it where it’s a positive impact so those precious angels can live on.”

“No matter, 30 years from now, the sweet little girls we lost are still part of the Gavin family.”
Members of the local fire department are also set to appear at Thursday night’s tree dedication to talk with the kids and families about the importance of exit drills in the house (EDITH). 

Proceeds from #GavinStrong t-shirt sales will help another family who recently lost their home to a fire.


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