The Backwoods

Where we teeter between our love of modern convenience and the yearning for something long past; a world where neighbors knew your name and a “Friend Request” was eye contact and a smile.

It Takes A Village

Posted · 24 Comments
Mya and Peter

Peter…acting like he DIDN’T just have his arm around my daughter…

Our little community of Ninilchik, Alaska, is saddened by the death of one of our local teens in a four wheeler accident on the beach this past weekend.  A boy with a history of trying to find his place.  A boy being raised by a village, known by many and understood by few.

A few weeks ago I saw Peter in the general store. I’d not seen him for a while and this boy we’d all known for years had begun to look like a man.  “That little shit is getting more handsome, I’ll never keep Mya away from him now…” I thought to myself. And those who knew Peter understand this mom’s thoughts and are smiling right now as you read.  Admit it, if you’ve daughters, you’ve thought it too.

This was a boy with a history like my own kids.  A boy who I was so busy keeping away from my daughters…that I forgot… he was exactly like my sons.

This is a boy who, on the sixth grade camping trip across the bay, looked right at me…put his arm around my Mya’s shoulders and grinned with that “whatcha gonna do now, mamma?” look on his face.  So I raised my camera too late and missed the shot…only to capture this casual stance from this boy with many faces…one moment devious…one moment eager to be accepted. So like my own.

Now gone, at barely fifteen with no chance to prove to the world that he could become the man we all wanted him to be.  This boy who when things went wrong, all heads turned to…and yet who stole the hearts of teachers and moms for twenty miles around who saw a soul inside him, eager to be loved.

And so this week his beloved grandmother, his aunts, uncles and cousins, and those who stepped-up, struggle to plan a memorial for a boy with a continual smile, a joy for life and a love for those who surrounded him with their arms when he needed them the most.

EDITED: I posted a version of this blog about six hours ago in hopes of gaining donations towards a memorial of some kind. Thanks to the incredible generosity of readers of this page, the cost of Peters service has been covered!  What an amazing act of generosity!  I’m overwhelmed. His family and friends thank you!

24 Responses to "It Takes A Village"
  1. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. There are no words.

  2. Shannon Lell says:

    Ah. Peter is not a motherless boy from Alaska. He’s me. Donation sent. RIP Peter. And thanks for doing this for him and all the moms who saw his soul as just another kid wanting to be loved.

  3. Terri Martin says:

    What happened to the “donate” button? How do I donate?

  4. Holly Malone says:

    Such a beautiful posting, for such a tragic loss. He was my nephew’s best friend (and I believe the man of my poor niece’s dreams, Shhh don’t tell her I said that….) and our whole family can feel the loss. I have shed many tears over this horrific tragedy, and for all the people he left behind. As lucky as the community was to have him, he was very lucky to have such a loving community. He will live on through the memories he shared with all of you. I am sorry for your loss Ninilchik.

  5. Gayle says:

    I have that child and wish Fairbanks was smaller. He needs a village raising him. There are a few who try to help, but sometimes it just isn’t enough. Bless this child’s family as they struggle to find meaning. Rest his soul.

  6. Tammy says:

    That was so simple. And said so much.

  7. Mirannda says:

    Thank you for all tha help. Peter wasnt my brother by blood but he lived with me and grew up with me or many years. So he was my one and only brother. Thank you all for the help. My family and I feel truly blessed. And thank you Keri Riley for everything, you are an amazing woman that has a giant heart. Thank all of you and the community of Ninilchik for all that you are doing. You are amazing people. 🙂

  8. Betsey says:

    With a son of my own just turning 16, I’ve been hurting and praying for this family since I heard. Thanks for sharing.

  9. MaggieMay1974 says:

    I donated $10 dollars, and I cried for this lost boy who will never get to be a man. I have two sons, and my older son was so, so lost at 15. He is now 19 and achingly vital and joyful. To think of never being able to see that transformation, the rising of the best in him to his actions…impossible. I’m sorry for your loss and your communities loss.

  10. Linda Zinger says:

    Thank you for sharing this about Peter. It made me cry, my cousin Nathan’s funeral was yesterday, he was only 26, he lost his way in the big city–Dallas, and did not have a village around him to love and care for him. We cousins who live here in northern MI didn’t know anything was amiss, tears come easily these days. I’m glad he had all of you to love him. Sending a donation, hope it helps.

  11. LindsyR says:

    As a foster parent, this really hit home. So thankful for supermoms like you and the communities that step up. Although, I wish they didnt have to in this case. Blessings to Peter’s family and friends.

  12. Tammy Bear says:

    Keri: Thank you for this. People like you, who are willing to stand up for the underdog and speak out, make communities like Ninilchik the great place it is for kids to grow up. While I didn’t know him very well, I knew him for many years. As a mother and a member of the school staff, I will miss his little grin. He would have had an amazing wrestling career! Expect a donation when next we meet.

  13. Tammy says:

    Praying strength for your whole community.

  14. Kat says:

    Living in a village of my own out here in Wisconsin I know quite well how small communities take care of and look out for all of their children, especially the ones who need a little extra care. Hope everyone in Ninilchik is able to heal in the coming days and weeks.

  15. Stacey weckwerth says:

    Donation made. Bless this boy, and thank you for doing this. You are such a…….. Mom!

  16. S says:

    For my brother, who left too soon and also marched to his own drummer. Or rather, to himself, drumming.

  17. countrygalbelieves says:

    So sad for this loss that has affected all of you . I will donate more Friday 🙁

  18. Tamara McCormick Larson says:

    I lost my son 4 years ago July 12th, he too danced to the beat of his own drum! I will be donating on friday when we get paid. Life is short, love big!

  19. Melinda Fernandez says:

    We get paid on Friday and we would like to donate. We are not supposed to loose our kids before us. I lived in Anchorage from 88 to 93. I miss the nature and wilderness. I hope to one day bring my children and husband up there to see all the fun places. We hope that you all will be able to heal as a village

  20. Beth says:

    Sent a little something for Peter. Love your blog and all that you do.

  21. Jessica Knorr says:

    I dont have any money to spare but Ive been there with my son 2 years ago yesterday. Just wanted to send my condolences to all who loved him. It is such a horrible thing for a child to die like that.

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