ST. STEPHEN — Sherkerry McKnight placed a lone teddy bear on the front porch of Ta'Mya Grant's house Monday.
A few hours later, the porch on Welch Street was filled with teddy bears.
That's when McKnight realized many in this Berkeley County town of about 1,700 were feeling the same shock and sadness over Ta'Mya's mysterious death Saturday as she was. She came up with the idea of having a candlelight vigil in memory of the 7-year-old girl today and, sure enough, the town has responded.
Residents and especially St. Stephen Elementary School, where Ta'Mya attended, have all pitched in without hesitation.
"The whole community is behind me on this," McKnight said Wednesday. "It's such a big loss. Nothing like this has ever happened here."
Ta'Mya's mother, 22-year-old Shaveta McGill, said she found her daughter lying on the floor of their home early Saturday. She told police she and a friend left the girl alone, asleep, for a couple of hours late Friday to buy cigarettes, authorities said.
Police Chief John Waters said the mother's male friend called 911 from his cell phone. Paramedics responded at 1 a.m. and found the girl unresponsive with a serious head injury. She was pronounced dead minutes later at a Moncks Corner hospital. The case is being investigated as a homicide.
McKnight said part of the reason for the vigil is to support the family, who are expected to attend.
"We just wanted to stick with the family and let them know the whole community is there," she said. "She's not by herself."
McKnight said they will have buttons with Ta'Mya's picture on them. Town officials will be invited to speak. Participants are asked to bring their own candles.
Funeral arrangements have also been set. The viewing is from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday in Gethers Funeral Home, 200 Grace St., Moncks Corner and 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at the Gethers Funeral Home, 221 Church Rd., St. Stephen. The funeral will be in St. Stephen at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Stephen Baptist Church, 272 Church Road.