With freshly painted swings and a new playground set, Chelsey’s Park in East Naples is certainly a place for kids.
But more than anything, it’s a place to remember.
Kris Murphy, 41, built the park in memory of her 19-year-old daughter Chelsey, who was hit by a car and killed while crossing U.S. 41 East in March. Chelsey, who loved kids, was four months pregnant with her first child.
Around noon Sunday, about 100 friends, family and members of the Tree of Life Church in East Naples gathered at the small park for its official grand opening and dedication.
“It’s to keep (Chelsey’s) memory alive,” Murphy said before the ceremony. “It’s a place people can come and remember her, because she’s buried up North.”
Chelsey’s Park is on a small plot of land on Tree of Life Church property off Shadowlawn Drive. Although it is officially on church property, church officials insist it will be open to the entire community.
The old swing set that was already on the property has been painted. Local Boy Scout Mitch Grandy, 17, assembled the playground set as part of his Eagle Scout project. Randé Fleming, 42, who described himself as one of Murphy’s best friends, rebuilt an old gazebo on the property.
“It got to my heart,” said Fleming, a land surveyor and handyman who is currently looking for work. “I really wanted to see something special come alive, because I know how much she loved her daughter.”
Murphy installed a memorial stone with her Chelsey’s name and etched picture next to the gazebo. She’s hoping to install a picnic table and water fountain in the coming months.
In the future, Murphy also wants to advocate against distracted driving. The driver who hit and killed her daughter was talking on his cell phone at the time.
But on Sunday, the emphasis was on the new park.
“It’s not a closure. It’s just a sense of having a place to go to remember (Chelsey),” Murphy said. “Every day there are children here already playing.”