Hundreds attend funeral for boy killed by tree

Posted at 6:25 PM, Jun 18, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- Family and friends said goodbye to the 4-year-old boy killed by a falling tree at Maymont last week.

At Tuesday’s service their pastor told the crowd that little Shawn Wills’ parents are not bitter, and even though they are heartbroken by the loss, believe that out of the tragedy will come a blessing.

Members of the congregation, the mayor of Richmond, along with hundreds from the community who turned out to support the family.

"We feel your pain and want you to know that you do not bear this affliction by yourself,” said Mayor Dwight Jones. “Weeping and pain will endure for the night, but joy will come in the morning.”

The powerful tribute to the 4-year-old was filled with songs to uplift those with fallen spirits, bright balloons to match the little boy's bright smile.

In fact, that smile filled a memorial display, greeting all who entered the church. And inside the sanctuary, a stage filled with little Shawn's favorite toys brought comfort.

Those who needed a shoulder to lean on didn't have to look very far. Pastor Joe Forbush encouraged the family to hold onto hope and faith in those difficult days, weeks and months to come.

"Death is not final,” said Forbush. “One day you will be able to hold that young man in your arms once and you'll see that sheepish little smile that's on his face... Oh, what a place heaven is going to be."

After Wills' death, Norman Burns with the Maymount Foundation said the park is reviewing its storm policies and procedures to see if any changes should be made.

Burns said the foundation monitors storm activity in the days leading up to and on the day of any weather events to determine if the park should be evacuated.

In fact, Burns said resource officers alerted everyone in the park to get to safety as quickly as appropriately as they could last Thursday.