ANNVILLE, Pa. (WHTM) — A Lebanon County community is remembering a boy who police say died from severe abuse. That same community is working to prevent similar abuse from occurring.
On Wednesday night, church bells rang out while porch lights illuminated to honor 12-year-old Max Schollenberger.
Detectives said Max’s father and his girlfriend beat and starved Max for years, in addition to locking him in a dark room with covered windows.
Natalie Duvall lives in Annville and is a mom herself. She says she was shocked by Max’s story. “Just shock and sadness that a kid in our town had to suffer through that and we didn’t know.”
Duvall and a group of locals made a Facebook event called ‘Light the Night,’ where they agreed to turn their lights on for 12 minutes at the same time to remember Max.
“It’s devastating to think about so we thought maybe this would be one way that we could show him there is light in the world,” Duvall said. “We’ll all turn on our lights so he knows there is a place for him that has light.”
Duvall said it was specifically a way for people to come together and honor the child who had been suffering in silence.
“It’s a nice reminder that we’re all a community. I think — because we all feel some guilt — that we were a part of the community that couldn’t save him,” she said.
That weight of not knowing also motivates president of the Friends of Old Annville group, Michael Schroeder.
“To commit ourselves to stopping this kind of extreme child abuse which is happening right in our own backyard and we don’t even know it,” Schroeder said.
He says they’ve been talking about putting in a bench that has the number of a child abuse hotline or organizing a scholarship fund in Max’s name.
“This will coalesce at some point into something solid and tangible that we can do as a community to remember Max Schollenberger,” Schroeder said.
Not only do they want to light the night for Max, they hope to shine a light on child abuse.
“To not only memorialize his life and his suffering and his spirit. But to try and work to prevent any such thing from happening ever again,” Schroeder said.