Fundraising is in progress for a children’s grove to be built fall 2013 in Stephens Lake Park.
Anne Deaton, an adjunct professor in the department of human development and family studies, has been planning this project since December 2012. The idea came to her when she spoke to community civic leaders about the Sandy Hook tragedy during a holiday event.
The grove will show the Boone County community’s commitment to the wellbeing of children, and will serve as a remembrance of children everywhere who have suffered tragedy, she said.
“I believe, like President Obama stated (following the tragedy in Newtown), that they are all our children,” Deaton said. “I wanted a visible testimony of our dedication to the wellbeing of our children. After I made that statement, I immediately started receiving response from people who loved the idea and wanted to help.”
The children’s grove project started gaining momentum when they joined the Putting Kids First Coalition as a committee.
Last year, the coalition was successful in its efforts to pass a ballot item that increased the Boone County sales tax by one-fourth of a cent, which has raised approximately $5.4 million to fund better mental health services for children.
“Under the umbrella of this coalition, we were able to grow and expand our horizons,” Deaton said. “By talking about the grove and what it stands for, we can also talk about these serious issues in our community that affect children.”
Mayor Bob McDavid was responsible for connecting the committee with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, which designed the artist rendition of what the grove will look like. Based on the department’s design, the grove, located near the Council Circle at the park, will include ]variants of magnolia and malus trees.
Fundraising for the projected started in June 2013. So far, the committee has raised approximately $17,000 out of the $20,000 it needs. The committee expects to have raised the needed funds by Oct. 1 and will begin purchasing and planting trees in October or November.
Funds were provided by the banks, businesses, organizations, and individuals within the county. The Missouri Mental Health Foundation, for example, gave $1,000 to the cause because of the grove’s opportunity to raise discussions around mental health care for children, Deaton said.
A dedication ceremony for the grove will be held on the first Saturday of May 2014, during Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
The committee is planning activities at the grove to promote civility, kindness and good character in children, Deaton said.
Pete Mellier, director of Mizzou Botanical Gardens and consultant for the grove project, is discussing possibilities of a small recreation of the grove with the Department of Residential Life. Incorporating the grove to an existing landscaping project near residential halls can reduce the cost of such a project, he said.
“I think a replication of the grove at Stephens Lake Park on campus will signify the university’s Jeffersonian commitment to nurturing young adults for the future,” Mellier said. “Education should not just be about going to class and getting good grades, but also about a person’s character.”
Deaton also expressed her interest in a grove on the university’s campus.
“I think the university would be interested in having its own grove that would parallel the one in Stephens Lake Park,” she said. “A tree stands tall, a tree is full of life, and a tree is full of hope. That’s what adults need to do: to stand tall for the youth of our community.”