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Celebration of life held one year after Peach Stand murder

Friends and family of Karson Whitesell gathered at Illumine Church Wednesday night to remember the life she lived.

YORK COUNTY, S.C. — One year ago on Jan. 23, a 19-year-old York County girl died as a result of a shooting at The Peach Stand in Fort Mill.

Wednesday night, friends and family of Karson Whitesell gathered at Illumine Church to remember the life she lived.

“I hope people remember her fun spirit. her loving heart, and that she saw people as people,” said Debbie Harrison, Karson’s mother.

Harrison said she has leaned on her faith and the community around her to get through the past year without her daughter.

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“I remember that first day calling Kent, the pastor here at Illumine, saying, ‘I don’t know how I’m supposed to live without her,’” Harrison said, “And I didn’t think I could make it a day, and I’ve made it a year.”

In that year, Harrison has worked to honor her daughter’s memory by creating Karson’s Kompassion Project. Its mission is to spread peace and love to those in the shadows. The project helped collect more than 3,000 stuffed animals for law enforcement to give to kids in crisis.

Harrison also took a team of people to Africa, where Karson served as a missionary in summer 2017. Karson’s Kompassion Project worked to build a playground dedicated in her name.

“That summer spent in Africa just changed her for the better, and so this is a continuation of that, you know, and not letting her light die,” Harrison added.

RELATED: Man who killed York County teen at Fort Mill market sentenced to life in prison

It’s a light that Harrison said she will continue to spread for her daughter, who inspired so many in her 19 years of life.

As the first year without Karson comes to a close, Harrison said she is choosing to praise and focus on the positives.

“I had to put my feet forward every day to make sure that love and light overcame the evil that took Karson from this world,” Harrison said.

The man accused of shooting and killing Karson, Christopher Benjamin Mendez, pleaded guilty in December.

A judge sentenced Mendez to life in prison without the possibility of parole.