A freak accident took the life of Marco Island grandparent Sharon Perk’s 2-year-old grandson.
Now, the retiree hopes to see the boy’s memory preserved in a playground bearing his name.
Toddler Liam Perk died on Dec. 22, 2009, after the family dog bit him on the neck, apparently startled when the child ran by him at his parents’ Cape Coral home. The bite cut an artery, causing Liam to bleed heavily.
The dog, an 8-year-old weimaraner named Lloyd, had never shown signs of aggression, Perk said. Liam’s parents had it put down, and Cape Coral investigators closed the case without issue. The family has struggled during the following two months.
“It’s been excruciating for all of us,” said Perk, 64.
The Perks, long-time Marco Island vacationers, made a permanent move to the Island in 1988. They took care of Liam one day of the week, every week, in Cape Coral, and the boy often visited them at their home. He was inquisitive and talkative, Perk recalled, and he loved watching for helicopters in the sky from his grandparents’ lanai. He enjoyed playing with blocks and his vocabulary was growing.
“He was just a sweet little boy,” she said. “He wasn’t alive enough to be naughty.”
In January, Liam’s parents decided a playground would make an apt memorial for their son. Carrie Perk, Liam’s mother, works for Playmore Recreational Products & Services, a distributor of playgrounds to local municipalities. With husband Joseph Perk and the help of several community members, they founded the Liam J. Perk Foundation, a nonprofit that operates under the larger Cape Coral Community Foundation.
The foundation contacted the Cape Coral Rotary Club, which oversees play equipment at Rotary Park, a 137-acre wetland property with nature trails and a boardwalk that Joseph Perk and his son used to walk. The park also holds the only public space dog park in Cape Coral, Waggin Tails Dog Park. Joseph Perk said the location was appropriate.
“Our family are dog lovers, and it’s just kind of tragic what happened,” he said.
Carrie Perk designed the playground with reminders of her son. Brown, the color of Liam’s eyes, is prevalent, the family wrote in a press release.
The Rotary Club, which had already purchased a playground set for the park but had to yet to install it, scrapped its plans in order to support the foundation and install the future playground. The city, in turn, agreed to take the club’s playground set and is currently looking for a spot to place it, said Steve Pohlman, director for Parks and Recreation for Cape Coral.
One possible location is a school that had its wooden playground removed due its weathering.
“We did not have the resources to replace that playground,” Pohlman said.
Joseph Perk said his son’s playground could cost upwards of $230,000. The foundation currently has about $20,000, he said.
Sharon Perk said she and her husband will do what they can to support fundraising. As it is, she’s happy her son and daughter-in-law have something to keep them occupied.
“My husband and I have been out there to walk around it already, and it’s a very beautiful part of Cape Coral,” she said.