Spartans create a corner of hope to remember friends

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:52

    Sparta - When three of the four members of the Stassi family died in a head-on collision with a drunk driver late last year, the people in the community were devastated. This event left many feeling empty and frustrated. Now a group of grieving friends and relatives are turning these feelings into something positive. In an effort to create a tangible, permanent place for others to visit and remember the Stassis, some Sparta residents and friends of the family have created Samantha's Garden, a place to help the community start the healing process from this tragedy. Samantha's Garden is already taking shape at the school Samantha Stassi, the 10-year-old who died in the accident, attended. The two tiered, paved, semi circle garden that encompasses a cherry tree and a podium behind Helen Morgan Elementary School creates an amphitheater-style memorial to her. "There's nothing you can do about the loss of a friend, but this (garden) is something we can do and it's helping us to heal," said family friend and Sparta resident, Ellie Wolfson, who along with Melissa Tillyer formed a committee to seek donations. "We were prepared to host a car wash and other fundraisers to come up with enough money for the garden, but Sussex Block came through for us with thousands of dollars of materials, so we didn't have to do any fundraising," said Melissa. "We thought maybe one company would donate a portion of pavers, but they just said ‘yes, yes, yes' to everything and really shined for us." Marky Wolfson, who was a close friend of Samatha Stassi, helps out at the garden every Saturday along with many other children. "We all dig with our hands, we like using our hands instead of a shovel. I think of Sam while I'm there and it helps me feel better. I know that she would enjoy working on this too because all of her friends are there and we'd have a lot of fun, laughing and telling jokes," said Marky. "She'd be happy to see this has been done for her," The garden will include letters to Samantha written by the children and crafts which will be buried under the paving stones. "Elizabeth Spect, Erin & Brian Porter, Melody Tillyer and I wrote letters that we miss her. "We all signed the cards and made beads in the shape of hearts to put inside the stones to Sam, and her parents, Beverly and Anthony," said Marky. Samantha's Garden, which will seat 20 to 24 people, will also be used for meetings and as an outdoor classroom. "It might help to make someone's day easier, it might be a place someone could go to think about Sam and her family. The garden may provide a place to think of the family even if they don't know them or it may be just a nice place to sit outside," Ellie Wolfson. "We didn't want her to be forgotten. We wanted something lasting, a positive place to go to feel close to her other than the cemetery in town," said Melissa.