Lanterns released in remembrance of girl killed in crash

STUART, FL (WFLX) - Exactly three years ago, 11-year old Brianna Cooper was killed in a car crash in Martin County, near Kanner Highway and Pomeroy Street.

On Sunday, Brianna's family gathered at Halpatiokee Park in Martin County for a lantern release in her honor.

Hundreds of the Cooper's closest friends and family came out to support the Coopers on the milestone day, and help raise money to support other families that have felt a loss similar to the Cooper's. "We're blessed to be here, just to make it what, 1095 days?" said Todd Cooper, Brianna's father.

Todd Cooper and his wife, Cindy, said three years ago, they weren't sure how they would get by without Brianna. "Today, she would have been at school, getting ready to come home, going out to dinner with the family," Cindy said.

Sunday, family said, they're putting the terrible memory of the accident aside and using the day to celebrate her life.

Guests sang songs and read poems about Brianna, before lighting and releasing hundreds of lanterns. "I feel like she's watching over us, definitely, and she's here for us," said Brianna's friend, Fatima Johnson.

Brianna would be 14-years-old, like Johnson. "I was just happy that she was one of my friends."

The lantern release was an event to raise money for The Brianna Smiles Foundation, created in honor of Brianna by her parents.

The foundation supports other families that have felt a loss like the Cooper family.

It has already raised money for nine college scholarships. The Coopers are also planning to start a summer camp.

The next big event will be a 5k and 10k race in April 2014.

Copyright 2013 WFLX. All Rights Reserved.