CJ Garden Dedication {personal post}

I was honored to capture the dedication to a new area at our Elementry School today.  There were lots of photos and a couple videos so I wasn’t sure how to best display them both together since Facebook doesn’t really let you mix photos with your video I thought writing a little blog post might be best.  So this really is personal post and not photography related.

I heard of CJ’s story through simply being a resident of Petaluma.  I’m not sure you can live in Petaluma and not have at least heard of him.  This story for some reason stuck with me.  You unfortunately hear of stories such as CJ’s all too often.  But for some reason this one has stuck in my heart and really moved me in a way I haven’t quite been able to understand.  Good people shouldn’t get cancer.  Children shouldn’t get cancer.  Children shouldn’t have their lives taken.  Parents shouldn’t have their babies taken from them.  It sucks.  I have no appropriate words to describe how I feel about it.  It sucks.  It makes me so angry.  It makes me feel so helpless.  I want to fix it all I want to do something that will make it not so.  But I can’t and that leaves me with nothing except frustration and anger.  But then there are the people who react different from me, the ones I have such an incredible appreciation for.  The ones who spring into action and find every way possible to loose no time and jump straight into pulling what positive they can and they find ways to heal others, to rise the positive and bury the sad and negative.  That is what Petaluma is.  It’s filled with the spirit of these people.  They have rallied behind CJ and their family to surround them with everything positive.

Over the past several months I watched as our Princapal, Melissa Becker envisioned this project.  A garden of sorts that would be created as a way to memorialize the spirit of this young boy who once walked the halls of our school.  This boy who gave back to everyone in the school more than he took in.  How would she do this??  One would assume a little plaque or a brick in the pavement perhaps?  maybe a sign by a tree that she would plant?  Perhaps a day in honor of CJ?  Maybe a bench with his name on it??  Nope she was going to turn this small little area where a tree was already growing roots over what was suppose to be a grass area in front of the playground, into an area to commemorate CJ.  OK????  I think I know what you mean??  a little plaque over in that area??  a bench by this tree??  NOPE!  She wanted to take out the tree since it was not safe for the kids as it was.  She was going to add a box (not an ordinary box) that would house books and board games.  There would be benches in this area and a painting on the wall from CJs favorite book, Ferdinand the Bull.  He loved Harry Potter so we needed to incorporate this as well.  ummmmm ok????  I think I understand????  Well, I think it’s safe to say not many of us truly understood her vision for this area until we showed up and watched it as it transformed into something words simply couldn’t describe.  It took great amounts of team work from numerous selfless people ready and willing to help see this vision and it’s purpose through.  Here are a few photos from today’s dedication.  I also ended up catching part of a couple speaches made by some very special people.  In hind sight I wish I would have thought to video them all but I caught the very last part of CJ’s Teacher, Mr. Steeves and all of the speach CJs Father gave.  Mind you I am not, let me repeat I AM NOT a videographer.  I am especially not good at it as I am bawling my eyes out!

Since CJ’s passing his Mother has gone to work for a wonderful organization called Alex’s Lemonaide Stand.  It’s a great organization that raises money for children’s cancer research. Check them out !! They are also hosting a fundraiser the day after his Birthday.  For more info on the fundraiser please click here If you own a business and have anything you could donate to the auction PLEASE reach out to Heather and donate!!!  If you wish to attend the auction you can can buy tickets to bowl and eat dinner or you can just eat and attend the auction.  Either way go to the link for more info!

2015-08-30_00222015-08-30_00232015-08-30_00242015-08-30_00252015-08-30_00262015-08-30_0027This is CJ’s actual signature!  They were able to find it on a paper that had been saved.  Our wonderful Art Teacher Mr. Chris did the silhouette style painting from Ferdinand the Bull and added a quote CJ said during his speech at 6th grade graduation along with a copy of his signature!2015-08-30_00282015-08-30_00292015-08-30_00302015-08-30_00362015-08-30_00312015-08-30_00322015-08-30_00332015-08-30_00342015-08-30_00352015-08-30_00372015-08-30_00382015-08-30_00392015-08-30_0040These are most of the people who volunteered hundreds of hours working on this space.  One of the boy scouts was basically the project manager for the entire thing!  What a spectacular kid!  2015-08-30_00412015-08-30_0042These two are a pretty dynamic couple!  She painted the portrait of CJ on the box and man was it spot on!  and her Husband painted one of the benches and all the details on the rest of the Harry Potter Box!  My kids think that box is the coolest!!!  They both did such an incredible job on the artwork!!!  along with Mr. Chris!2015-08-30_00432015-08-30_00442015-08-30_00452015-08-30_0046One of CJ’s friends got up and spoke.  He ended his speech by saying “I don’t know…. I just miss him a lot”  simple words with deep meaning. 2015-08-30_00472015-08-30_00482015-08-30_00492015-08-30_00502015-08-30_0051I wish I would have caught his whole speech on video.  It was really touching and very well spoken!!!

2015-08-30_0052Not sure there was a dry eye in the place once CJ’s Father got up and spoke!