In her 17 years on this earth, Madison Sparrow never liked being the center of attention.

“She has always been the type of person who doesn’t have to be at the forefront of anything,” family friend Rohn Sitjar said. “I say that because she was the type of person who always let the other person have the spotlight. The other person mattered more at that moment, because let’s face it, sometimes we don’t get to feel the way that we are all created to be, that we all have value, that our thoughts matter, that our feelings matter.”

On Oct. 9, though, the impact Sparrow had on her family, friends and community was evident, as hundreds of people gathered on a soccer field at Newark Charter School to mourn her death and celebrate her life.

“I’m here to focus on the life that she lived, the life that she lived out loud, the life that I think we as a community should rally around,” Sitjar said.

Madison, a junior at Newark Charter, was killed Oct. 2 after being reported missing. Police have charged her ex-boyfriend in her murder.

Family members described Sparrow as funny, vivacious and fiercely loyal to her friends and family. She enjoyed mentoring younger kids and aspired to be an elementary school teacher.

“She just brought a different energy,” her father, Richard Prestidge, said. “Everywhere she went, she just brought a smile to everybody’s faces.”

At the same time, she could be introverted and introspective, he added.

“She was, I believe, wise beyond her years,” he said. “As you get older, sometimes we all have to do that – we have to reflect and stop and pause. She did that as a very young child. It took a while to understand that, but that’s who she was.”

Looking out over the hundreds of people at the candlelight vigil, Prestidge said the family has been touched by the outpouring of support.

“It’s very meaningful,” he said. “It’s been an overwhelming amount of support.”

Sitjar concurred.

“I see a community of people grieving and sharing in this moment,” he said. “Let’s respect this moment for what it is. It’s an opportunity to stop, pause and remember that we are a community.”

Madison’s mother, Heather Sparrow-Murphy, acknowledged the family of Noah Sharp, who is charged in Madison’s death.

“I want you guys to know, there’s another family grieving right now, too,” Sparrow said. “I want a moment to acknowledge that. It would mean so much to me and Madi if we could just take a moment, because we harbor no ill will. If you could possibly find it in your heart, because I have.”

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