OGDEN -- Strangers are joining family and friends in rallying behind the family of a 6-year-old Ogden native who was gunned down in the Connecticut school shooting.
Emilie Parker among the 20 children who died Friday in one of the worst attacks on schoolchildren in U.S. history.
She was born in Ogden and moved with her parents, Robbie and Alissa Parker, and two younger sisters to Connecticut a year ago, said Brad Schultz, a close family friend.
Robbie Parker, who moved for his job as a respiratory therapist, grew up with his wife in Ogden and met her at high school there.
Emilie's body will be returned to Utah and laid to rest in Ogden, where the couple has family, Schultz said. Plans for funeral services were pending.
"She's such a sweet little angel and they're such a great family," Schultz told the Deseret News. "It's just a really tragic loss."
Schultz and another family friend, Alan Prothero, set up a memorial fund to help defray costs of the funeral and travel for the family.
The Emilie Parker Fund had taken in more than $12,000 in donations from people around the world as of Saturday night, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The fund is set up at American First Credit Union.
"There's a lot of immediate need there," Schultz said.
It's the second tragedy experienced by the family in recent months. In September, Alissa Parker's father, Douglas Cottle, died from injuries suffered in a bicycle race from Utah to Wyoming. Cottle, 62, suffered facial fractures.
The girl's aunt and uncle, April and Michael Cottle, joined friends and strangers in mourning Emilie's loss at a candlelight vigil Saturday night in Ogden.
"We just broke down and thought not Emilie. Why Emilie?" April Cottle said of their reaction when hearing the news about her death.
The Cottles said family members appreciate the public's support as they go through the grieving process. They have no anger, they said, and their faith is helping them cope with the tragedy.
"In the long run we know we're going to see Emilie again, and just draw closer and stronger as a family," Michael Cottle told KTVX-TV.
On Saturday, Robbie Parker was one of the first parents to speak publicly about their loss. He told the world about a little girl who loved to draw and was always smiling, and he also reserved surprising words of sympathy for the gunman's family.
"She was beautiful. She was blond. She was always smiling," he said.
To the man's family, he said, "I can't imagine how hard this experience must be for you."