Hope reigns at candlelight vigil for Lingenfelter

WELLSVILLE – First Christian Church in Wellsville was filled to capacity Saturday evening as Team Chelsea hosted a candlelight prayer vigil for 21-year-old Chelsea Lingenfelter, who remains at the Cleveland Clinic in critical need of a liver transplant.

“I’m just so glad that people showed up in support of Chelsea, and I know my sister would be very happy,” said Gregg Rodgers of Wellsville, speaking of Joni Lingenfelter, Chelsea’s mother, who has been spending the last few weeks in Cleveland during Chelsea’s current hospital stay. “I want to thank everybody. That’s what my sister would want and Chelsea would want.”

Rodgers, who spoke at the event along with his daughter Jaime Rodgers, Chelsea’s cousin, said he had visited Chelsea earlier in the week and emphasized that she wanted the gathering to be a celebration. For that reason, the event was called “A Celebration of Hope.”

Green ribbon pins were passed out to all attendees, symbolizing the cause of organ donation awareness, which has become an issue of utmost importance to Chelsea’s family. “I’m grateful for the organ donations and the awareness that we’re spreading, not only for Chelsea, but for all families out there waiting,” Jaime said.

The Rev. Mark Blakely, pastor at First Christian Church, led the assembly in prayer for a liver for Chelsea, and for the family of the donor, whose loss will help ensure Chelsea’s life.

Blakely urged attendees to pray for Chelsea not just in church, but in their everyday lives, turning each thought of her into a prayer. “If she pops into your head, that means you need to be praying for her at that moment,” he said. “You just pray right where you’re at, and God will hear your voice.”

A collection was taken up to help with Joni’s expenses, including parking, meals and gas, while she stays in Cleveland to be with Chelsea. Praise songs were performed by Brennen Kelly, son-in-law of Wellsville Mayor Susan Haugh, who was also in attendance.