[UPDATE: One month later: McFarlands revisit river, announce memorial service]

AUBURN — The parents of a 5-year-old boy who drowned last month in the Androscoggin River planned an event for this evening to thank the community and volunteers who searched for weeks for their son and to spotlight the dangers posed by the river.

Jason McFarland comforts his wife, Helena Gagliano-McFarland, during a news conference May 1 at Maine Medical Center in Portland. (Sun Journal file photo)

A press conference is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Bonney Park.

Helena Gagliano-McFarland told the Sun Journal today that her family has taken some time alone since her son, Valerio, was found May 14 by a Litchfield kayaker  paddling along the riverbank in Durham. They held a funeral for the boy in private, but wanted to reconnect with the community that had supported her family during the search.

“We know there were a lot of people who would have wanted to attend,” she said.

A public memorial service is planned for Thursday. Details will be announced at this evening’s press conference.

“It has been a very difficult time for us. It still is, but we wanted to … thank everybody, the community and everybody who helped us in the search and helped us financially and in other ways. At the same time we want to talk about the incident and how to prevent this in the future for anyone else having to lose their children to that place,” she said. “We would like to be able to have something good come from this so that my son didn’t die in vain, for nothing.”

On April 24, Valerio was playing with his brother, 10-year-old Maxim, at Bonney Park, close to the home the family had moved into just a few days before. Their mother was in the house, their father, Jason, outside with the boys, when Valerio fell into the nearby, rushing river. Maxim was the first to jump in to try to save him. Their 9-year-old sister, Giada, and father quickly followed.

Rescuers were able to pull Maxim from the water, but they could not find Valerio.

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