James Farrelly, age 6, watched an arch of kites fly in River Falls, Wis. on Sunday

James Farrelly, age 6, watched an arch of kites fly in River Falls, Wis. on Sunday

They came, as one mom put it, to move further along in their paths of grieving. 

More than 100 people gathered at a sunny, wind-whipped hilltop in River Falls, Wis. on Sunday to fly kites, beat homemade drums and remember recent tragedies that have befallen the community, including the deaths of three sisters who lived just down the street.


While many brought their own kites to fly, the event, Kids ’n Kites, Music & Words, featured 51 kites that were strung together to form an arch in the sky. Three white kites in the middle of the arch symbolized Amara, Sophie and Cea Schaffhausen, who gatherers described as smart and spirited sisters. The girls were found killed in their home in July. Their father has been charged with homicide.


Event organizer Catherine C. Olson said people in the community didn’t know what to do with so much tragedy, but they wanted to do something. “They didn’t write this in the parenting manuals,” she said.


Many at the gathering came from the Schaffhausens’ church, the Unitarian Universalist Society of River Falls.


“May we learn the lessons that kites give so freely; we need to hold on, but not too tight or the line will break. We need to let go, but not too much or the kite will plummet,” the Rev. Ted Tollefson told the group gathered. “May we hold the lines and the lives entrusted to our care gently and yet firmly, learning when to reel in and when to let go.”


Melyssa Rice, whose daughter Elsie went to Sunday school with the Schaffhausen girls, said: “We still get gripped by sadness. Seems like things like this help.”