Grieving parents of boy found in Susquehanna River thankful for community support

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WATTS TOWNSHIP, PERRY COUNTY, Pa. -- A Perry County family mourning the loss of their son found in the Susquehanna River, Monday, thanks the community for its support.

Throughout the past week, the Russells received an overwhelming outpouring of support from people who helped search for Justin, to an expression of compassion and prayers for the family.

Justin Russell was an adventurous fun loving boy who will not only be missed by his family, but a community as well.

Justin's mother Crystal Russell said "he was so happy, always so happy."

Justin's father Jeff Russell said "he would be blown away that so many people cared. He was very appreciative. I got him his go-kart for his birthday, and it was like three weeks later, and he's still thanking me for it."

It's also what Justin's parents have to say to those who've helped the family in more ways than one.

"Thank you. I don't even know you, some of you I do, some of you I don't, but thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my family's heart," Crystal Russell said.

Last Friday, eight-year-old Justin was playing with his 10-year-old brother in a creek near their home, when police say a strong current carried him away.

"Evan came running up through the back yard, screaming my name, and i could tell it just wasn't like a sibling yell for help, it was desperate," Jeff Russell said.

People throughout the community joined in the search, for which this family is extremely grateful.

"I see these people just diving in my driveway, with boats, and dogs, and just wanting to help. I was just kind of blown away. I'm like, it's not even your boy, how can you care, but they did," Jeff Russell said.

Meanwhile, losing Justin has taken an emotional toll on this family, as they continue to cope without him.

"He was just always there, always there for me," Jeff Russell said.

"You're not supposed to bury your children," Crystal Russell said.

A family friend created a GoFundMe page to help the family with funeral expenses.

The Russells invite members of the community who've supported them to attend his services on Monday, June 12th.

Justin's funeral will be held at David's Community Bible Church, 1072 State Route 25, Millersburg. The viewing will be held at 9 am, the service at 11 am.

Afterwards, Justin's body will be taken by fire truck to Hoover-Boyer Funeral Home, 118 S. Market St, Millersburg, PA.