BRANFORD -- Crowds of people filled the town green in Branford Sunday night for an emotional vigil in honor of 10- year-old Ben Callahan. The young boy tragically drown while swimming in the Branford river with his two brothers Friday.
Among the crowd of well over a thousand people were family, friends, teammates, members of opposing sports teams, teachers, town leaders, and even strangers of the Callahan family. Some describing him as a boy who “stood out as just a special, strong young soul,” while others called him “the little brother I always wanted.”
Each person who spoke about Ben smiled wide remembering the kind of kid he was. His father, David Callahan, described him as “sunshine” and a boy full of compassion.
"He made personal connections with so many people and these adults that are here and these 8th graders that are here and kids from his school they're here because Ben made a personal connection with them,” David said about the crowds who gathered for the vigil.
Ben’s younger brother Scout Callahan spoke proudly about the kind of person his brother was.
“He was like very nice, he was friendly, he was funny, he was fast, he was strong,” Scout said.
Ben was a boy with a big personality, a bright smile and a bright mind, according to those who knew him best.
“He did a lot of tutoring of the other kids and the principal overheard him one time say 'Oh, I struggle with that word too' and she goes 'I know Ben doesn't struggle with that word,' That's just the kind of heart that he had,” his dad reminisced.
Ben was also a star athlete, who played football, lacrosse, and basketball. He wore No. 2 on the back of his jersey. That number will now be retired.
“The brightest candles burn the shortest, he was like a sparkler he did everything you could possibly imagine and he did it well,” Ben’s father said, adding that Ben was not only an athlete but also an artist, a musician, and a boy who was full of faith.
The Callahan’s, citing scripture, said their deep religious beliefs are a huge part of what’s helping them get through this incredibly difficult time.
"'When I'm at my weakest that's when God can be the strongest,’ and so that's what we're relying on right now. Let’s rely on our faith, create a new normal and love and appreciate the two boys that we still have that are still here who are little heroes,” David said.
Friends of the Callahan’s have started a meal train fundraiser which has already lined up two months of meals for the family. There has also been an out pour of support for the family financially. Friends of the family told FOX61 they are looking into setting up a 501C for those funds as the family has expressed a desire to use the money in the future for some kind of donation or scholarship.
Those details, however, are still being worked out.