When Katrina Pappas heard that Ashley Lichty’s young daughters were killed Monday in an accident on Route 403, she knew she had to help.
Pappas said she quickly set up an online campaign to help the heartbroken Johnstown area family and settled on an ambitious goal even she wasn’t sure it would ever reach: $10,000.
It took two days to top the mark.
“We’ve got $12,228 now,” she said Thursday afternoon. “It’s just amazing. A lot of these people have never even met the family.”
As of 3 p.m., 289 donors had contributed to the gofundme.com account “Two Little Angels.”
In $5, $20, $50 and other denominations, donors offered help – and hope. Some typed messages such as “God bless you all” and “RIP two beautiful angels” on the page’s message board.
Pappas, a family friend, said one anonymous donor contributed $1,000.
It put the total over the $10,000 goal to help with funeral expenses for 8-year-old Ryleigh Freiwald and 6-year-old Mikayla Freiwald.
“It’s just incredible,” she said.
The community has rallied around the family since the accident, which occurred when a tree fell onto Lichty and Jason Himebaugh’s car as it passed by on the road, police said. The impact killed the two girls, the Somerset County coroner’s office said, before the car continued across the highway and struck a utility pole.
Family said Himebaugh sustained a concussion and other injuries, and Lichty received hip-related injuries that put both in Memorial Medical Center’s ICU for several days. Himebaugh has since been released, Conemaugh Health System spokeswoman Amy Bradley said.
Lichty’s condition has been upgraded to good, and it was possible she could be released as soon as Thursday evening, Bradley said.
Pappas said Lichty has improved physically over the past few days.
“Her spirits seem to be up a little bit now, too. Especially when she sees the other two girls,” she said, of Lichty’s 3- year-old and 5-year-old daughters, Lillie and Ciara, who escaped injury in the crash. “But I think we’re all sort of in a state of shock. What happened ... it’s just so crazy.”
An obituary for the girls is on Page C7 of today’s edition of The Tribune-Democrat. The two are the daughters of Anthony M. Freiwald of Johnstown, the death notice says.
An account also has been set up through 1st Summit Bank to help the family. Pappas said friends and family will be at Thunder in the Valley locations with plastic jugs to collect donations over the weekend.
David Hurst covers Conemaugh Township for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tddavidhurst