Garden dedicated in Elburn teen’s memory

By on September 6, 2013

ELBURN—A small plot of land in the back of Kaneland Harter Middle School holds the spirit of teenager Caitlyn Phillips, a student who was killed in a tragic accident earlier this year.

Caity died last April while rollerskating near her home in Elburn. Unable to stop her momentum, she entered an intersection and collided with a car.

The garden, which was dedicated in a ceremony on Aug. 19, features the color yellow—Caity’s favorite color—butterflies, and a bright and cheery feel. The spot is near where Caity and her fellow cheer club members would practice.

“We feel it appropriate to provide a spot to remember Caity’s memory in an area that already rings with echoes of her laugh, a location that will bring the kind of smiles Caity did,” Mary Elliot said.

Elliot, the parent of a girl who had been on the cheer squad with Caity, coordinated a fund-raising effort to create the garden that included parents, students, staff, community members and others.

Harter Middle School Principal Bryan Zwemke said he was gratified by the collaborative group effort in which so many people and groups contributed their time, money and talents to create this memorial garden.

“I like where the garden has been placed,” Zwemke said. “Kids can see it from the cafeteria.”

The space includes a bench, multi-seasonal garden plantings and a tree. A memorial plaque features a Quick Response (QR) code that, when scanned using a cell phone, shows pictures of the bright and smiling 13-year-old.

Zwemke said that Caity’s death affected the entire Kaneland community.

“She was caring and kind, and she had a lot of energy,” he said.

Close to 100 people, including parents, students, fellow cheer squad members, Kaneland Youth Football League players, staff and others attended the ceremony celebrating Caity’s life.

Thirteen butterflies, one for each of her 13 years, were released during the ceremony, while members of the cheer squad read a poem, “Still Missing You.”

Approximately $2,000 was raised for the memorial garden. With funding left over, a cheerleading scholarship was created. One each year will be awarded to a qualifying Harter Middle School student to cover the costs of participating in the squad.

Ron Rosecky, a neighbor of the Phillips family, said that he was glad that the garden was planted for Caity.

“She was a sweet little girl, and it made me happy to know that she will not be forgotten,” he said.