WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - It was a little more than seven months ago that 6-year-old Faye Swetlik was reported missing not long after she’d returned home from school.
Her story captured the hearts of people around the state and the country before coming to a tragic end days later when officials announced that her body had been found not far from where she was last seen.
Tuesday, a tribute ceremony is being held for Faye at the Felton C. Benton Park in West Columbia. The Springdale Police Department is inviting members of the public to remember the bubbly little girl during the event, where a tree will be planted and a bench dedicated in Faye’s honor.
Faye’s mother, Selena Collins, decided to break her silence in one of her first public interviews since news of her daughter’s disappearance and death made headlines.
Collins says she was reluctant to speak with the media before because she wanted to keep the focus on Faye, whom she described as her whole world.
It was Feb. 10, when Collins says Faye returned home from school and started playing in the front yard outside of their home in Cayce. When she couldn’t find Faye shortly after, she made a call to 911 and reported her missing.
Just three days later, Faye’s body was found in the neighborhood she once called home. Officials say, her neighbor, 30-year-old Coty Taylor, was responsible for her death and died by suicide the same day Faye’s body was found.
The devastating events have forced Collins to live life without her only child.
“Faye meant absolutely everything to me. Even in my darkest times and even when life got to be its hardest because I am a single mom, or, I was a single mom – even when I didn’t have anybody else, I had Faye and I know it’s an awful lot to ask of a little child to lean on but she was always my rock when things got its hardest,” Collins said, adding that Faye “was always down for a cuddle and for a movie.”
Collins says her daughter loved being at the park, and that the bench being dedicated in her honor will serve a special purpose highlighting Faye’s love of making new friends. She says this won’t be just any bench, but what’s called a Buddy Bench.
“If you feel like you don’t have a friend to play with, you can sit down on a buddy bench and somebody else will come and sit down with you and talk to you or somebody will come up to you knowing that you need a friend. I mean, kids are awesome that way and then they can go and play together,” Collins said. “Faye was always the first one to give a compliment, even randomly to people that she’s never met before. Like, we couldn’t go anywhere without her stopping like three or four different people to compliment them, be it their hair or if a color looked good on them, and she always wanted to make new friends.”
Collins says there will also be a new Buddy Bench at Springdale Elementary where Faye went to school.
Tuesday’s ceremony at Felton C. Benton Park begins at 7 p.m. and members of the public are encouraged to wear bright colors like pink or purple, Faye’s favorites.
“The sparklier the better,” her mother said.