Thousands show support for Schaffhausen family in River Falls - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Thousands show support for Schaffhausen family in River Falls


River Falls (WQOW) - It was a day of celebration and remembrance in River Falls, for three little girls who were tragically killed by their father last year.

Amara, Cecilia and Sophie Schaffhausen were murdered by their father last July. The tragedy touched many across western Wisconsin, and across the country. And the community came together Saturday, in a big way, to help the family leave a legacy in honor of these girls.

"I am absolutely blown away. This is amazing," says Jessica Schaffhausen, mother to Amara, Sophie and Cecilia.

For the community of River Falls, Saturday was all about support, support for the family of three little girls whose lives were tragically cut short last summer.

Aaron Schaffhausen was sentenced to life in prison for murdering his daughters, eleven year old Amara, eight year old Sophie and five year old Cecilia.

But Saturday's events weren't about the tragedy. As the girls mother, Jessica, puts it: "It's a matter of trying to focus on the positives and not on the negatives."

And there were plenty of positives, with 13-hundred turning out to walk and run the Tri-Angel 5k-- right alongside Jessica. 

"It's amazing. That's what I was amazed with, it's just a great atmosphere and a great community builder, and it really takes a difficult situation  and adds a little bit of redemption in it and brightens it up," says Mark Majerus, who brought his family to the race with him.

"It was like a buoy. It just really lifted me up and carried me through. It was great seeing the girls pictures along the way, you know, that really helped, you know, because I know everyone of those pictures and when and where it happened, so the memory," says Jessica.

And the memories are also strong with many of the volunteers. These girls would have been competing at a soccer tournament this weekend with Amara, but instead, they're helping to honor her.

"Mara was a really good friend," says Faith Jensen, Amara's teammate. "They say Tri-Angels playground, because it's for the playground that Jess wants to build in honor of them."

The goal is to raise five hundred thousand dollars.

"Initially, when the girls first died, there was a lot of, kind of how I saw it as, energy. People just wanted to do something, they wanted to make it better and you know, of course, there's no way I can get my girls back, but we can take and funnel all that energy towards making this world a better place," says Jessica.

"It's incredible and it's a lot to take in, but I know they're all here to help and support us and the family and the playground so it's really cool to be a part of this," says event organizer Hannah Bellrichard.

The message of support was heard loud and clear:

"Thank you so much. I'm sure my girls are looking down and are just really jealous that they're not here right now," Jessica thanked the crowd on Saturday.

More than $48,000 was raised and the attendance was more than 1,200. The entire 5k was organized by two high schoolers who were touched by the tragedy. They say they might make the 5k an annual event. Dozens of companies donated things like pictures, food, pony rides and music to the event.

Later Saturday morning it was the bikers turn to show their support. The first annual "Cruisin for a Cause" was also held in River Falls. Hundreds of bikers also helped raise money for the playground by donating to the fund.

"We wanted to do something to raise money locally, and the girls and what happened last year hit a lot of us very personally and so it was just natural this year to go ahead and do it for them," says bike ride organizer Lori Novak.

The group biked one hundred miles throughout western Wisconsin. They'll be holding the event next year, supporting a different cause.

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