It was important to Leora Friedman they get this right.
“We all worked together knowing that it had to be special,” said the eighth-grader and Corporate Landing Middle School (CLMS) SCA President. “We made stepping stones and we all came out and planted the flowers together.”
And what Friedman and her fellow SCA officers did together was incredibly moving for the family and friends of former CLMS student Ashley Maclure.
“I don’t know how we’ll ever be able to thank you for this,” said Penny Maclure, Ashley’s mother. “It’s been almost 16 years since Ashley died. Through those years, we have grown as a family and we have seen her friends grow up. After all these years it’s wonderful that she’s still remembered and we appreciate it.”
Through tears, Maclure addressed the small crowd of students and staff gathered to dedicate the Ashley Maclure Butterfly Garden May 20. She and Ashley’s father John Maclure were asked to officially open the garden with a ribbon cutting. Ashley’s older sister Jessica sat nearby.
Ashley lost her life in August 2000 at the age of 13. She was struck by a car while riding her bike at the intersection of Upton and Old Dam Neck roads and was not wearing a helmet at the time. Ashley died of a severe brain injury following three weeks in the intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters.
Her parents launched a helmet safety campaign, “Don’t Wing It,” within the next year and distributed bumper stickers to schools. A promotional poster from the campaign was displayed in the garden at the dedication ceremony.
SCA officers started planning the garden months ago, beginning by reviewing a letter sent by Mr. and Mrs. Maclure years prior.
The letter notified CLMS that funds remaining in a school scholarship account established in Ashley’s honor could be released, and her parents requested the funds be used “as a relaxing beautiful garden the children can enjoy.” The letter also expressed their wishes that the garden include a memory stone, colorful flowers and representations of butterflies and angels.
Friedman and her peers took steps to make sure the Maclure’s wishes were granted and worked with the school division’s landscape services staff to prepare a garden location near the main entrance of the school.
The memorial stone bears the inscription requested by Ashley’s parents, “In memory of Ashley Maclure and all other children that attended Corporate Landing Middle that have lost their lives so young.”
Smaller stones handpainted by students in Rachel Jenning’s art class outline the garden’s perimeter. Many feature butterflies and angels.
“Those were things Ashley Maclure appreciated,” said Friedman.
John Maclure joined his wife in taking a moment to express his gratitude to the students and staff.
“Thank you so much for doing this for our family. Life and time are extremely fleeting. Always love and respect yourself. Always love everybody else that you encounter. And always be thankful every day and make the most of it,” he said.
“I want to say one thing to all of you who have brothers and sisters,” added Penny Maclure. “Go home, give him a hug and kiss. Don’t fight so much. I used to tell my girls, you never know what’s going to happen. Show your siblings that you love them.”
“I know; sometimes it’s hard,” she acknowledged. “I have eight siblings, but I love them. Just remember that they may not always be here. I love you all. Thank you.”
Ashley’s mother embraced Friedman, who was equally emotional about the project coming to fruition.
“We hope this garden impacts the student body as much as it has us,” Friedman said. “It’s important not take life for granted because you never know when it may be your last day.”