UPPER CHICHESTER TOWNSHIP, Pa. - For 20 years, a memorial garden in Delaware County has been serving as a place of remembrance and grieving for parents of murdered children.
One woman has been trying to maintain it, but after so many years, she needs some help.
The Garden of Love is a large green space donated by the Upper Chichester Township for the sentimental reason that mothers of children killed by gun violence have a space to reflect.
Gwen Runge has been maintaining the garden as best as she can after she lost her teenage son more than 20 years ago. "When I come down here, I leave the other world behind and I’m in this world and I feel angels are down here to walk with us. It gives you a peace of mind."
A peace of mind that Meredith Elizalde says is needed for grieving families. "I think, as the parent of a murdered child, you don’t have any peace, but a space like this is as close as you’re gonna get, in this life."
Elizalde’s 14-year-old son, Nicolas, was tragically gunned down outside of Roxborough High School last September.
Ironically, the garden was a special place for her and her son, who is shown as just a toddler taking in the greenery. Elizalde now wants a space in the garden to remember her beloved son.
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"Nick is my only child and so motherhood, and the way that I knew it, has been completely taken away. My efforts to still parent him are in ways of keeping him alive," Elizalde explained. "A garden represents growth and longevity and that’s why I need him to have a space here."
A space she hopes to create that really represents just who her son was, "He loves all living creatures. He loves the planet, he loves the environment."
Elizalde says her son was passionate about endangered species, like the blue bird, and hoped to see the species back in the area. "So, he learned how to make the specific houses to draw them back to the area. What I envision in this space, where I’m going to create a garden in the school shootings area, is a blue bird trail, because they love open trails like that, in his honor."
But, she says she needs help. The donated space needs a clean-up. "What we need to do is clear the fallen tree. We got a lot of overgrowth. We have benches that you can’t even access because the weeds are so high."
She continued, "I want everyone who has a child, loves a child or knows a child to feel a mother’s pain of watching her child be murdered for no reason, at school, just try to feel how that would feel for a moment and come down and help."
A National Day of Remembrance for homicide victims is scheduled for September 25th, at the Garden of Love. Dozens of families will gather to remember their children and give support to each other. More information can be found at the Garden of Love's website.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up for those who wish to donate to the cleanup effort.