C.C. Baker still remembers when doctors told he and his wife that their 2-year-old daughter would deteriorate until her death before she was a teenager.
“It’s just completely devastating,” he said. “It just blows you away for a long time.”
Baker, now 72, is one of the parents who memorialized his child, Alison, at The Children’s Park in Tyler. Now, the park is raising money to be expanded.
“The park has far exceeded our expectations,” Baker said.
Baker’s daughter had a rare genetic disorder called Hurler’s Disease. She lived until age 25 in 1991, but she never grew beyond the size of a child and was bedridden for the last seven years of her life. She lost her ability to hear and to speak.
“We had such a long time not knowing how long she had,” Baker said. “We grieved for a long time, even while she was alive. But caring for her brought such joy. She was such a loving little person. That was all she expressed. It was worth the time together.”
Baker’s story is one of many. The names of more than 400 children are memorialized in sidewalk stones, trees and statues around the park over the 10 years the park has existed.
“To be able to do something, in memory of a child, allows that child’s name to be carried on,” executive director Jennifer Carson said in a written release. “In a sense, it gives some purpose to the brevity of their lives.”
Although many families come to the park to process the loss of a child, other occasions are held in the idyllic setting, such as weddings and family pictures.
Now organizers are planning an expansion to the park, and they are close to their fundraising goal. And the City of Tyler is on board.
“The City of Tyler recently issued an exciting challenge: For every dollar we raise, up to $127,500, they will donate an additional dollar,” reads the release. “Because we’ve already raised about 80 percent of the total funds needed, your gift can help make this vision a reality for our community — meaning that every dollar you donate will be doubled! We invite you to be a part of this amazing 174-day campaign.”
The expansion, called Phase II, will be built on .75 acres adjoining the park. It includes a remodel of a deck on an existing house next to the grounds. There will be a meditation garden and additional green space.
Neighbor.ly is the civic crowd-funding website partnering with The Children’s Park to complete the Phase II Campaign.
The house that the nonprofit bought as part of the pr’Heaoject was named “Alison’s House” in honor of Baker’s daughter. Though her death brought grief, Baker said the park is “the one place that allows you to come and reflect on your child with joy” and that his involvement with the park since the beginning has been his way of honoring her memory.
“It means a lot to families that it’s here,” he said. “Without saying a word, you can feel God’s healing presence in this wonderful setting.”
To learn more or make a donation, visit http://neighbor.ly/childrens-park-tyler.
Call 903-939-1597 for information.