WINCHESTER — When Kevin Michael Riley was a boy, he loved going to Weaver Park in Winchester with his grandmother.
Next month, a serenity garden called the Garden of Hope will be planted in the small neighborhood park at 167 Bruce Drive to memorialize people who, like Riley, lost their lives to gun violence.
“June 3rd and 4th is National Gun Violence Awareness weekend, also known as Wear Orange Weekend, so we wanted to do something to recognize that while giving back to the community and remembering the lives lost to gun violence, not only in our community but across the country,” said Crystal Pruitt, founder of a Winchester-based nonprofit called the Kevin Riley Foundation of Hope that helps underprivileged youth and advocates for an end to gun violence.
Pruitt was Riley’s sister, and she formed the Kevin Riley Foundation of Hope shortly after her 29-year-old brother was shot to death on Oct. 28, 2020, in a restaurant parking lot on Adams Drive in Winchester. His killer, Quadell Alik Grimes of Hagerstown, Maryland, is now serving a 25-year prison term after being convicted in August of second-degree murder.
“We decided to build this 80-foot-by-30-foot serenity garden so we can honor and remember the lives lost to gun violence by planting new life,” Pruitt said on Monday morning while checking out the wooded corner of Weaver Park where the Garden of Hope will be created from 8 a.m. to noon on June 4.
The goal, Pruitt said, is that people who visit the garden will have conversations “about valuing life and valuing one another. You don’t need to turn to violence to solve your problems. Maybe if we start having those conversations at a young age, and continue having those conversations when we’re older, then we can reverse what’s happening in our world.”
Pruitt said she approached Winchester Parks and Recreation Director Chris Konyar about the Garden of Hope and he and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board readily agreed to allow the use of Weaver Park for the project.
Several people have already offered to help with the garden’s installation, but Pruitt said more volunteers, as well as financial donations, are needed to ensure the project’s success.
Among those who will be digging in the dirt on June 4 are members of TEENS Inc. in Winchester. TEENS, which stands for Teaching Employment Enhancements Necessary for Survival, is a nonprofit that teaches job-readiness concepts such as work ethics, employer expectations, job safety and teamwork to at-risk youth and individuals with disabilities.
“We give back to our community,” TEENS Inc. Executive Director Johnny Craig said on Monday. “We’re volunteering our time and backs and bones.”
To help raise money for the serenity garden’s creation, a benefit car, truck and bike show called Rides of Hope will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Backseat Bar and Grill, 104 Full House Drive near Winchester. Registration will take place from 10 a.m. to noon and nine “best of” awards will be presented at the end of the day. The event will include music, funnel cakes, face painting and raffles, and the first 100 vehicles to register will receive free dash plaques and swag bags. Additional information is available by emailing Pruitt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Garden of Hope was designed by Edwin Elvira, owner of Elvira Landscaping in Winchester, who offered his services at a discount. It will include a stone-dust pathway, benches, a metal sculpture that symbolizes hope, a lending library with books for families and, since the garden will be beneath a canopy of trees, Elvira said he selected plants that prefer shady conditions like hostas, ferns, catmint and purple salvia.
“This serenity garden will be a beautiful, peaceful place where anyone can be one with nature, a mom can sit and read a book while waiting for a little one to finish soccer practice, a bereaved mom can come and sit in quietness,” Pruitt said. “The garden is a vision of hope that one day we can see a community, a world without violence.”
To volunteer to help with the Garden of Hope’s installation or to make a financial donation to support the project, visit krfoh.org.
Guns are not violent. People are. People use knives, guns, automobiles, sledgehammers, ice picks, shovels, pitchforks, bombs, acid, ropes, etc. in violent acts to kill or maim other people all the time. I've never heard of any of these tools acting out in violence, only used in acts of violence. I'm saddened at the loss of life due to any kind of violence, but perpetrators of violence should be penalized, just like the perpetrator in this case.
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