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Community offers many ways to show support to family

| Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 11:34 a.m.

The donation of pint-sized trucks continue to pour in and monetary gifts have reached the thousands.

People from across the world are sending gifts, writing letters and doing just about anything they can to honor the young life lost too soon.

Support has remained strong for a Whitehall family whose young son was killed by African painted dogs at the zoo less than two weeks ago.

Maddox Derkosh, 2, fell from a railing at an observation deck and into an exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, where he was killed by several of the 11 dogs inside. Police continue to investigate.

“Everybody all over the country is affected by this. It's touching people from all over the state, all over the country, the world even,” said Kristin Nock, 25, of Pittsburgh, who launched a Facebook page — R.I.P. Maddox Derkosh, with nearly 11,000 followers — and a PayPal account that raised more than $16,000 for the family. Donations no longer are being accepted at that account, but can be made at any Citizens Bank in the Maddoxes honor.

Donations and support have poured in from across the world, said Nock, who, with the Derkosh family blessing, has begun organizing a spaghetti dinner and candlelight vigil in Maddoxes honor.

“It's just touching that so many in the Pittsburgh area community are coming together and seeking to embrace the Derkosh family by fundraising and donating toy trucks,” said the Rev. David Bonnar to a crowd of about 800 attending Maddox's funeral on Friday.

Members of the Derkosh family have declined to comment.

Within less than a week, more than 100 volunteers rallied to do whatever they could to assist with for the planning of a spaghetti dinner, said Nock, a mother of two young children, who leads the nonprofit Brentwood PALS group. Already, nearly all of the items have been donated for the event.

“I have enough food to feed over 3,000 people,” Nock said of the spaghetti dinner at Brentwood Presbyterian Church, 3725 Brownsville Road, on Nov. 25 from 2 to 8 p.m.

Young and old alike have been affected by Maddox's death and want to do something to help the family, said Whitehall resident Jennifer Gannon, who lives just a few blocks away from the Derkoshes, but never met them.

She started a Facebook group, “Peace and Prayers for Maddox,” where online donations still are being accepted and more than $2,300 has been raised.

Gannon, who is working along with other mothers from St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin School, said plans are to purchase gift cards for the family from the donations.

People are sending toy trucks, a wish made by the Derkosh family who plans to donate the trucks to a children's Christmas charity.

Even Gannon's 6-year-old son, Aidan, started his own collection of toy trucks in honor of Maddox.

As he watched trucks arrive in the mail, Aidan questioned his mother what the toys were for and when he heard about Maddox, he wanted to show his support, Gannon said.

“I think it's important to show that the little kids are supporting him,” said Gannon, 38, a mother a four, ranging in age from 1 to 6.

Keeping their faith strong also is important.

“The family is really close. They're relying on their faith to get through this,” Nock said.

Clinging to one another, Maddox's parents Jason and Elizabeth followed the tiny white casket down the aisle of St. Bernard Church on Friday where Bonnar told stories of a vibrant child, who looked at the world through his “trademark glasses.”

“One of most distinguishing features of Maddox were his eyes,” Bonnar said. “In his short life, he saw so much with those eyes.”

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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