The seventeen-hour vigil had ended.

It was time for Kim Stoneton to leave her daughter Kelsey, who had suffered a fatal lung blood clot hours earlier. After attempts to save her life failed, doctors at Maine Medical Center in Portland pronounced the 17-year-old dead at 4:07 a.m.

The last to leave her daughter’s hospital room, Kim wrote a message on the white board:

“She is so special.”

Within hours of Stoneton’s death Saturday, her hometown of Winthrop would show the teen’s family how much it agreed with that sentiment.

Dozens of cards, flowers, notes and teddy bears were left on the steps of Kim Stoneton’s downtown hair salon, Bloom, and on Joel Stoneton’s porch steps.

In two days, an online account set up to help the family with medical and funeral expenses raised $13,000, and by the end of Tuesday, it stood at $15,205. Three local restaurants and an ice cream parlor planned fundraisers for the family. With the money raised from benefits held over the next several days, the Stoneton family hopes to start a scholarship in their daughter’s name.

“I am in awe,” Kim Stoneton said of the outpouring of support from Winthrop and its surrounding towns. “But at the same time, I’m not surprised because this is for Kelsey. She touched so many people’s lives.”

On Sunday evening, more than 200 gathered at a candlelight vigil in Joel Stoneton’s back yard to remember and grieve the loss of a girl known for her ever-present smile and unflappable, upbeat attitude.

The town’s former longtime football coach and newly hired athletic director stood on his back porch steps and through tears he told the crowd: “Kids, love your parents, and parents, hug your kids.”

He also urged his daughter’s friends and the community to honor her by living as she did, rather than dwelling on why her life ended tragically.

She had collapsed on her father’s floor less than 48 hours earlier. She came to briefly after he resuscitated her. “I love you,” she told him.

The captain of her field hockey team, a Special Olympics volunteer, and a student ranked at the top of her class, Stoneton had breathing problems the week before she died. Blood tests and an electrocardiogram had normal results. She was scheduled to have more tests Friday, the day she fell unconscious.

“I love you with all my heart,” Haley Stoneton, 14, wrote on Facebook after her big sister died. “You are the best sister I could ever ask for and no one is going to replace you.”

Though many in the town of 6,000 are reeling over the loss of the vibrant young girl, they have vowed to do what they can to temper the family’s pain.

“We can’t give the Stoneton family Kelsey back, but we can ease some of their grief,” said Niki Mihalakis, whose parents own Winthrop House of Pizza and are donating all profits Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. to the Stonetons.

Less than a mile from downtown Winthrop, the employees at Fast Eddies, the U.S. Route 202 drive-in restaurant where Kelsey Stoneton waitressed for the past two years, are gearing up for their Friday night benefit. The restaurant’s roadway sign reminded customers to “Just Smile, Team Kels.”

Stoneton worked her last shift on Thursday, the day before the ambulance rushed her to the Portland hospital.

“Customers always asked for her,” said Chloe Allen, Kelsey’s coworker, friend and fellow lacrosse team member. “She always had so much energy and that huge smile on her face. No complaints in the world. She made everyone around her happy just by looking at her.”

Kim Stoneton created a Twitter hashtag #justsmile to encourage others to carry on her daughter’s legacy. Several people have posted uplifting messages or pictures of themselves smiling.

“Some of her friends are falling into depression,” Kim Stoneton said. “But Kelsey wouldn’t want them to do that. You’ve got to carry on her spirit, her smile and make someone’s day brighter.”

Kelsey Stoneton posted a message on Jan. 21: “No matter where life takes me, find me with a smile.”

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