Gardner community remembers 8-year-old girl killed in multi-car crash


GARDNER, Kan. — When something tragic happens, the Gardner community pulls together. That was made clear Sunday night during a candlelight vigil for the 8-year-old killed last week in a car crash.

Hundreds picked up candles and dropped off notes of encouragement for the Callie Dilks’ family. The letter box was decorated by Callie’s Girl Scout sisters.

“You can really see how they personalized it to what Callie meant to them,” troop leader Angela Hayes said.

“That’s Callie and our whole troop,” 9-year-old Brooklyn Hayes said pointing to a picture on her box. 

Brooklyn said her friend loved to tell jokes, smile, and laugh. The 9-year-old said what she’ll miss most about Callie is “how kind and sweet she is.”

Last week, the 8-year-old was killed in a multi-vehicle crash. It happened around 8 a.m. at 175th and Four Corners Rd., just west of Gardner city limits. 

The Johnson Co. Sheriff’s Office said a roofing truck hit a minivan and pushed it into another truck. the truck was pushed into another van. The Dilks were in the minivan.

Callie’s mom and two siblings were also injured in the wreck, but they survived.

“There will just always be a part of us missing,” Hayes said. “There’s 15 girls in this troop and there will always be a hole.”

Hayes said Callie was always there to lend a helping hand. A trait that runs in the family. Her father is part of the Kansas Highway Patrol.

A dozen of their troopers lined the park in support, along with several tow trucks. One of them hoisted up an American Flag.

“I hope they feel support, love,” owner of PK Towing and Recovery, Emerald Lengel, said.

She said they work a lot of calls with Callie’s dad. Although she doesn’t know the family personally, it was important to show support at the vigil. 

Callie’s 3rd grade classmates at Madison Elementary dropped off a huge box of flowers with loving notes drawn on the side. Inspire Dance Academy performed in Callie’s honor.

The ceremony closed with a candle lighting, while listing to her favorite song, “Simple” by Florida Georgia Line. 

First responders also flashed their lights as family and friends remember the bright light – Callie Dilks – that this world lost too soon.

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