Gospel music benefit honors Danielle Church

BARLOW- The death of a young woman brought many people together from the Barlow area Thursday to help her family and to honor her faith.

Around 100 people came to the Barlow Fairgrounds Gazebo Amphitheater Thursday evening for A Special Evening of Gospel Music to benefit the family of Danielle Nicole Church.

Church was killed in an ATV accident on April 26 around 1195 Graham Road in Cutler.

She was a passenger on a 2009 Polaris RZR 800 driven by a man identified as her half brother, Stephen A. Sewell, 23, of Bartlett. Church suffered severe head trauma in the crash, the Washington County Sheriff’s Department reported. She was transported to Marietta Memorial Hospital and was pronounced dead at MMH shortly after her arrival.

Church, 18, of Cutler was preparing for prom and graduation at Warren High School at the time of her death.

The family is dealing with medical and funeral expenses as well as wanting to get a special gravemarker for Church, said Norma Eagle, a cousin of Church.

“They are doing a benefit on behalf of Danielle and her family to try to defray some of the cost they have associated with it,” Eagle said.

No one talked about how much the family needed, but people were encouraged to give what they could to help out.

“We know she has gone off to a better place and we still want to celebrate that,” Eagle said. “This is a gospel sing. Everyone here is celebrating with us in that she has gone off to a better place.”

The local gospel artists who performed donated their time and all proceeds from their CD sales. The Barlow Fair Board donated its facilities. Beans and cornbread and other foods, including hot dogs and cookies, were served with money raised going to the family.

A number of people were wearing special T-shirts with a red and green ribbon saying “In Loving Memory Danielle Church” wrapped around the Christian cross to signify her faith and the fact she was born on Christmas day.

The shirts also featured the quote, “Give me strength when I am standing and faith when I fall.”

“That was Danielle’s favorite saying and that is what she would tell people all the time,” Eagle said.

The concert was hosted by Spiritual Road, who is Carolyn Richards and Dave Butcher, and featured performances by Matt Harris, Jerry & Alisa Queen and Tyler Leasure.

“We are here tonight to remember Danielle Nicole Church,” Butcher said from quotes provided to him by Church’s family. “Danielle was a girl who loved life, her family and never knew a stranger.

“She was full of fun. Anyone who knew her would say she was always smiling. She never let life get her down.”

Church’s family provided quotes from her which Butcher read to those assembled.

“You know what, tragedies happen,” he read quoting Danielle. “What are you going to do? Give up? No.

“I realize now that when your heart breaks you got to fight like heck to make sure you are still alive, because you are. That pain you feel, that is life. The confusion and fear that is there to remind you something out there is better and that something is worth fighting for.”

Butcher concluded the family’s comments by saying, “Danielle, you will forever be in our hearts baby girl until we see you again.”

Some people came out for the gospel music and did not know Church, but said their hearts went out to the family.

Others had known Church for years.

Wayne Berry of the Barlow area had known Church for a long time.

“She was like my kid,” he said. “We have been good friends. I am here to honor Danielle.”

Berry said Church’s loss will always be felt by many.

“Losing someone like that … she can never be replaced,” he said. “She was as sweet as all get out. She was a great kid.”

Around 1,500 people attended Church’s visitation and funeral, family members said.

“Danielle was well known at Warren High School,” said Tina Bartmess, another of Church’s cousins. “She was such a nice girl.

“She would never judge anyone. That is why she was so well liked because she was friends with everyone.”

Church’s death brought many people together throughout the area.

“I think she has changed some lives today in that they are getting right with the Lord because of Danielle and this tragedy that happened,” Bartmess said. “You can see what it has done to the community.

“I cannot believe the number of people who have came out to support the Church family. This definitely shows the love in this community.”