CAYCE, S.C. (WIS) - It’s been one year since Cayce Department of Public Safety officials found 6-year-old Faye Swetlik’s body in a shallow grave not far from where she was last seen.
The three-day search to find her was the largest operation of its kind in South Carolina history.
Police say her neighbor killed her and then took his own life, but we still don’t know why.
In the days and weeks following Faye’s death, the community came together in ways the City of Cayce and Lexington County Coroner’s Office say they’d never seen before.
Some people found tangible ways to grieve this devastating loss.
“When I saw how her life ended in such a horrific way, that’s not where I wanted the story to stop,” said Greenville resident, Julie Volnoggle. “I wanted it to continue.”
Just a few days after the 6-year-old’s death, Volnoggle started a Facebook group called Rocks for Faye. She asked people to paint bright colors and messages on rocks with the group’s hashtag.
Within one week, the group had 4,000 members. Today, it’s reached more than 8,000.
“I just thought a handful of people would do that,” she explained. “I had no idea it would take off like wildfire.”
The rocks have traveled along Route 66 and to the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado. They’ve even flown internationally, from Scotland to Nova Scotia and Feliz, Brazil.
They’ve seemed to find the people who needed their message most.
“This woman found a rock in Spencer, Massachusetts, and her mother-in-law had just passed, and when she picked it up it took her breath away because it was a phrase that her mother-in-law always said,” Volnoggle explained. “The whole thing was very moving to her and brought her to tears, and I thought that was amazing, like a Faye hug or a Faye smile.”
Misty Burton, of Lexington, also wanted to help keep Faye’s memory alive in the weeks after her tragic death. Burton owns Tenfold Collective and created pink and purple leather earrings in Faye’s honor. She sold them across the country.
“My little boy has a puzzle that is the United States,” said Burton. “He was taking the pieces of that puzzle, and every time we would get one in a different state, he was putting them on the puzzle.”
Burton donated the $10,000 she raised to the Cindy Roof Wilkerson Foundation, which is helping to rebuild the playground at Springdale Elementary School, where Faye’s went to school. A special section will be dedicated to Faye.
“It was overwhelming, and I think that goes to show all of us that our life matters, Faye’s life mattered,” said Burton. “To have impact like that and be a part of it was really special.”
One year later, as people find the rocks or put on their earrings, the hope is they take a minute to think about this little 6-year-old girl from Cayce, whose short life touched so many and whose memory continues to shine.
Faye’s mom, Selena Collins, is part of the Rocks for Faye Facebook group and says the page gives her a place to go to when she’s feeling down. And so she can see the impact her little girl is having on the world from Heaven.