Fishers Parks Foundation Dedicates Angel of Hope

As featured in Current Fishers on December 14, 2020 -

Parents who lose a child now have a place to visit to find comfort and solace. An Angel of Hope Memorial Garden, an idea derived from the book "The Christmas Box," is now in Fishers. It opened Dec. 6 in Heritage Park.

"It's based on the book 'The Christmas Box' where a mother has lost her child and finds comfort at the foot of an angel in a garden," Fishers Parks Foundation President Lisa Knowles said. "From that, people launched onto the idea of angels, and there are now over 100 Angel of Hope memorials throughout the country."

Eighteen months ago, Fishers resident Holly Schwomeyer suggested the idea of building an Angel of Hope in Fishers to the Fishers City Council after the death of her daughter. The council passed the idea to the Parks and Recreation Dept., which in turn passed it to the Fishers Parks Foundation.

"They passed it to us as an idea that would fit in with our mission, and the parks foundation's mission is to give residents an opportunity to participate in deciding what goes into a park," Knowles said.

The foundation broke ground on the project on Dec. 6, 2019. The project began with an original fundraising goal of $100,000 to finish construction and landscaping. But the goal was lowered to $10,000 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We didn't think it would be that hard because the support to that is so strong from the community," Knowles said. "Everyone you talk to knows someone who has lost a child, which is heartbreaking but unfortunately too common. We were trying to make it a place for the families to find comfort and a place in design that was welcoming to them and a peaceful place that was in the public and not isolated."

The project received a matching grant from the Indiana Housing Authority Creating Places grant for up to $50,000.

"We had heard rumors about COVID starting, and so we thought we would go conservative and shoot for raising $35,000, because the foundation already had money to put toward the project and we had some local donors on board," she said. "We had 60 days to raise the money starting in March."
Lockdown mandates began a week into fundraising.

"We weren't really sure what to do, and nobody was in a position to donate, and we didn't know what life was going to look like," Knowles said. The parks foundation put the fundraiser on hold, and they returned to the goal at the end of the summer. "Our goal was always to finish this in time for Dec. 6. We thought a full year to get to create a space for those families and to open it and have a dedication by Dec. 6, 2020 was always our goal."

The lowered $10,000 fundraising goal and matching grant would allow for the angel and the pavers to be installed and the parks foundation could return to finish the landscaping later. A fundraising event in September had to be canceled due to the pandemic, and instead, the foundation teamed up with the Ambassador House and the Fishers Arts Council to offer an art fair supporting local artists. More than 300 people attended, and one of the attendees was local philanthropist and entrepreneur Steven Cage.

The Steven J. Cage Foundation decided to donate to the project, and Knowles said between the organization's cash donation of $35,000, in-kind donations and other donors, as well as the IHA grant, the project is now fully funded. It held its dedication ceremony Dec. 6.

"The angel is in and we are all set," she said. "We are still waiting for the benches to come in, but there will be benches installed in the next month."

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