TOOELE, Utah (ABC4) — Today marks the six-month anniversary of eight-year-old Dallin Cunningham’s tragic passing. His family continues to grieve the loss and uses music to help them get through the hard days, and are trying to raise money for a real piano.
The boy attended a Tooele County elementary school where he was playing on a slide and fell off onto the ground sustaining injuries that would lead to his death.
“I always tell people that we’re kind of awful, like, all the time, but we’re also okay,” Kathryn Cunningham told ABC4. She explained that the death of the family’s youngest, Dallin, still feels fresh. “We’re getting through, we’re moving on, we have our lives, we’re happy but there’s always part of you that’s not okay,” she added.
Music filled the Cunningham home on Monday afternoon. This is a common occurrence. Kathryn Cunningham played the keyboard while her three daughters stood behind her to sing. They sang a song about their Savior, Jesus Christ. This is something they often do to help lift their spirits during the grieving process.
“I’m so glad that he was here, but so mad that he’s gone,” Cunningham said. She told ABC4 that they believe they need to allow themselves to feel all the emotions that come with grieving the loss of a loved one. However, on the hardest days, they turn to music.
Music brings some light to the family even during the darkest times. “Especially in those first couple of months,” Kathryn Cunningham said. “Just always, always, always just to kind of not sink into the darkness. It’ll lift you back up a little bit.”
“It’s just fun to sing,” Margaret Cunningham said. She is the second youngest child in the family. Like her older sisters, she sings, plays the piano, and does art.
Along with music, making art (like a painting of Dallin his sister Macalie painted) and community support have all made a huge impact on the family. “Nothing can make the pain go away, it doesn’t even necessarily make it easier, but I felt how much love there was. It was very powerful and palpable,” Kathryn Cunningham said.
She told ABC4 that even though the family is new to the Stansbury Park area, Dallin’s passing was a community loss. She explained that people came together in many different ways to show their support for the family. For example, Dallin’s sister Abigail showed ABC4 a photo. In it was the entire student body and faculty of Dallin’s elementary school. They were all wearing green shirts (his favorite color) that said “Celebrate Dallin” in Portuguese. To this day, Abigail said she will run into someone wearing one of those shirts and instantly feel comforted.
At the end of the day, the family will always feel some pain for their loss. However, music will remain a constant in their lives to help them through it. “Music has been their therapy since Dallin passed away,” Dallin’s dad Timothy told ABC4. Cunningham has a plan to help his wife and daughters continue healing. “I believe it will be a way for them to remember their brother.”
The family has a small electric keyboard. Timothy Cunningham told ABC4 that he bought the keyboard 17 years ago when he and his wife were first married as a gift for her. He said she was angry with the gift at first because he spent one-third of his paycheck on it.
Over the years, he said, the keyboard has been used more than its fair share. In fact, after Dallin’s death, he said there hasn’t been a single day that it hasn’t been used. He added: “They seem to have redoubled their efforts to become closer to god through music and to honor their feelings for their brother.”
With age and the wear and tear that comes with frequent use, the keyboard doesn’t work as well as it used to. He wants to give his wife and daughters something that will last a lifetime: a baby grand piano. He has been saving up for the piano and started a GoFundMe. He is close to his goal. You can find that GoFundMe here.
Cunningham’s sister decided to help out as well. She went to different businesses to see if they would be able to do something to help raise some money. The North Ogden Pizza Pie Café jumped on board. From August 7 through August 10, customers who mention the Cunningham Fundraiser will have 25 percent of their bill go to the fundraiser. The restaurant will also have signs with a QR code to allow customers to donate directly to the family.