Three months after a plane crash in Kentucky claimed the life of her 14-year-old daughter, an Illinois woman hopes to commemorate her memory in a humble, but fitting way — by building a place for children to play.
"Sierra really, really loved kids," Jami Lane said of her daughter, Sierra Wilder.
Wilder was killed along with her aunt, uncle and cousin when the Piper twin-engine plane they were in crashed in a wooded area of Kentucky while returning from a Christmas trip to Key West.
The sole survivor was Wilder’s 7-year-old cousin, Sailor Gutzler, who walked three quarters of a mile through dark woods to find help. Sailor’s parents, Marty Gutzler, 48, his wife Kimberly, 46, and her sister, 9-year-old Piper, died in the crash.
Lane said the only park in Nashville, Illinois, is lacking any sort of play area for children under the age of seven, and installing equipment for younger children to play on in her daughter's memory would be "the perfect fit."
Lane started a GoFundMe page with a target of $20,000 to pay for a small climbing wall, some tunnels and a fence at Memorial Park.
She's hoping her sons — and the next generation — will be able to enjoy the play equipment and maybe one day, the space will spark a conversation about Sierra, the high school freshman with a big heart who died too young.
"When my daughter's best friend, Emma, has kids, she can go there with them and talk about her," Lane said. She said people in the community have rallied around her to help her fundraise so that she can meet her goal of installing the equipment by summer. "They are saying it’s definitely needed, and they are saying it’s a great idea," she said.
Steven Fletcher, the president of Memorial Park's board, who is working with Lane, agreed. "We don’t have anything really that is with an enclosure," he said.
Fletcher is not surprised the community of about 3,200 has been so supportive of the idea. "It’s just a good way of life in a small town. People help other people," he said.
So far, Lane has raised about $3,500, she said, but she's determined to get the playground up and running, even if she has to delay the project until next summer.
"It’s going to be done no matter what," she said. "Whatever it takes."
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— Elisha Fieldstadt