The non-profit group Angel of Hope is seeking private sector funding to build an Angel of Hope Memorial in Gentry Park, one that would honor children who have died and the parents who still grieve.
Becky Horne, Melissa Lashley and Laurie Winkler made a presentation on the project during Monday, Sept. 23 city council meeting.
“We’re a committee of mothers and volunteers that have been working toward placing a memorial statue in Gering,” Horne said. “It’s similar to the Angel of Hope statue in Sidney.”
About a year ago, one of the mothers reached out to Horne for ideas on what could be done to establish a memorial for their children who have died. After some research, they felt the Angel of Hope statue would be a great fit.
The group first reached out to the Gering Parks, Cemetery and Tree Board for guidance on finding a suitable site for the memorial.
“They proposed the idea to the Parks Board about a year ago,” Gering Parks Director Amy Seiler said. “After a lot of discussion, we decided that Gentry Park at the west end of P Street would be the best site for this memorial.”
The proposal not only includes an angel statue, but also a circular memorial garden area with pavers bearing the names of children who have died.
“This memorial isn’t just for parents who have lost young children,” Seiler said. “It’s also for parents who have lost children at any age. I think this will be a very special project and we’re privileged to have it in our Gering park system.”
Seiler pointed out the entire project will be privately funded. The only cost to the city would be in siting the memorial statue and ongoing maintenance to the park.
The Parks Board approved the project, so the local group came before the city council Monday to fill them in on the proposal.
“In 2007, I lost my 14-year-old daughter to a car accident,” Melissa Lashley told council members. “That’s what prompted me to see if we could create a children’s memorial.”
The group told council members they plan to start fundraising for the memorial with a Halloween Ball in October. Their plan is to have the statue in place by the end of 2020.
Council members did have some concerns about adequate parking, lighting and street conditions leading to Gentry Park.
Seiler said they didn’t anticipate a lot of traffic to the area, other than during the yearly candlelight vigil.
“We’re honored that you considered Gering to house this type of memorial,” said Gering Mayor Tony Kaufman. “Gering’s been very proactive in working with organizations like this to enhance our park system and our community.”
Angel of Hope is a nationwide children’s memorial organization and an outdoor candlelight vigil is held every December at each site as parents and friends remember their loved ones.
The original idea for an angel statue came from the international bestselling book “The Christmas Box” by Richard Paul Evans. In its pages, an elderly woman still grieves the loss of her 5-year-old daughter decades earlier.
The Angel of Hope memorial is still in its formative stages but the group will keep the city updates as the idea progresses.