International Children's Memorial Place was grown out of a desire for parents to have a place to remember the sons and daughters they lost.
Despite the sombre roots of the park, it has become a destination for picnics and play.
“It’s a family place, not a sad place, said Bill MacLean, who headed the efforts to found the park with his wife, Myra, in 1999.
This year, the site is running into some of the same challenges other charities are experiencing due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Several of the ICMP’s ceremonies were cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but costs have not diminished.
Operating the 12-acre community park, which is full of cultivated gardens and walking trails, as well as three historic buildings, a pond and a dam, can cost upwards of $50,000 each year, said outgoing president Maitland MacIsaac.
“Up until now, largely through Bill’s efforts, quite frankly, we’ve been able to have generous organizations, like you people, come forward,” MacIsaac said to a group of donors on a recent visit.
Those donors were the P.E.I. Cupcakes group, whose members had raised $5,000 through the virtual raffle the group holds on its Facebook page.
Only so many tickets are sold on the raffle items, called cupcakes, and the proceeds go to under-funded not-for-profit organizations.
“Especially during COVID, it’s been very helpful for some of (the non-profits),” said Samantha MacPherson, head of the Cupcakes Facebook page.
“It kept them with a little bit of money coming in. … There’s not going to be anything they can do for fundraising events, the big ones, because they just can’t be gathering in big numbers. We’re just really happy to be able to contribute to this kind of stuff when these things are not possible.”
MacPherson, along with two other P.E.I. Cupcakes organizers, Toby MacDonald and Michelle Noonan, joined members of the ICMP board for a tour of the site, which included the Fountain of Life.
“It’s not quite finished, but your donation will top up being able to finish the whole thing,” said MacIsaac.
A round fountain pool is empty of water for now, but it’s easy to imagine the soothing rush of water.
Perched on the edge of the fountain pool is a circle of two-dimensional figures holding hands. From the centre of the pool, a globe reaches skyward, countries of the world hovering on a gleaming steel frame. The shape of P.E.I. is set out from the rest — the site of the park.
The donation from P.E.I. Cupcakes will let the ICMP complete the work by the end of the summer, said MacIsaac.
“We don’t necessarily need the acknowledgement, it’s just the fact that we’re doing good,” said Noonan.
She looked around the park, taking in the board members, the memorials and gardens.
“This is what it’s about.”
The park is home to a growing forest of 550 trees planted in memorial of a child who has died. The forest grows by around 50 trees each year.
Board member Dave Blanchard walks among the trees to remember his son.
“It’s nature’s hospital,” he said. “It makes you feel you’re not alone.”