FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - Holland Elementary's plans for a memorial to honor Aliahna Lemmon are coming together and next week the school will hold a fundraiser for it.
"Ever since we came back from break, we knew Holland would want to do something in memory of Aliahna," Krista Stockman, the spokesperson for Fort Wayne Community Schools, said.
Aliahna was 9 years old and a third grader at Holland when she was killed last December. Prosecutors said her babysitter and family friend, Michael Plumadore, did it.
Now, Holland will plant two trees in Aliahna's memory. One will be in the front of the school and one will be in the nature courtyard near Aliahna's old classroom. A picture of Aliahna and an art project she made will also hang inside the school.
Principal Mike Caywood said he likes the idea of a living tribute. "It will be there as a visual reminder of this little life that was taken from us, but also hopefully it will be a reminder to all of us of our responsibilities to take care of each other to take care of the children in our care," he said.
Stockman said every year the schools hold a fundraiser around this time for Riley Children's Foundation. This year the fundraiser will first help pay for Aliahna's memorial. Holland will donate any money left to Riley in Aliahna's name. Students and staff are encouraged to each donate $1, or whatever they can afford.
"This has been hard for students and hard for the staff. They want to find a way to remember their friend, this little girl who was tragically taken from us. This was a horrific crime and Aliahna deserves to be remembered," Stockman said.
The fundraiser is technically February 21-24, but donations turned in later than that would still be accepted. Anyone in the community who would like to contribute can send donations to the school:
Holland Elementary School
Aliahna Memorial Fund
7000 Red Haw Drive
Fort Wayne, IN 46807
The trees will be planted in the spring and the students who made a donation will get a small bottle of bubbles for the dedication ceremony.
At the same time, a reading bench Bevan Koenig is working on will be dedicated. He's working to build it now. From the pencil-shaped posts to the storage for books, he designed it to be a special place for Aliahna's classmates to remember her.
"It's a rare opportunity to be able to do something like this," said Koenig. "We want them to have something that they can always remember her by."
Karen Hughes' granddaughter was friends and classmates with Aliahna.
"I think it's awesome. I think it's great they're having the kids involved in it and those trees will stay there forever for her," Hughes said.
Hughes is also part of the group "Justice for Aliahna." It started on Facebook as an effort to honor and remember Aliahna.
"As much as we can do for Aliahna. That's our goal, to support her in the courts and be her voice," Hughes said.
The group is now selling bracelets to raise money for Stop Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) and the Dr. Lewis Center for Children, both of which are groups that aim to stop child abuse. Hughes said they ordered 200 bracelets and already only have 54 left. Most of those sales were done over Facebook.
Hughes said they plan to order more and sell them at the balloon release ceremony planned for March 31 at 2 pm. at the Allen County Courthouse lawn.
Hughes also hopes events and memorials will help people heal.
"It's been hard for [my granddaughter] and I'm sure on all the kids," Hughes said. "She wears her bracelet and she keeps it on. That's another reason for the balloon release. We want to make it a happy time in her honor."
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