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Mothers lead effort to build park to remember New Haven victims of gun violence

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — It is a pain that sticks with you every day.

“I was devastated,” said Marlene Miller-Pratt. “I grieve and I still grieve.”

Marlene’s son, Gary, was 20 years old when he was shot and killed in New Haven in 1998. Marlene and other mothers of children killed by gun violence are banding together with a New Haven non-profit called Urban Resources Initiative, also known as URI, to help turn a piece of land near West Rock Park along Valley Street into a peaceful, reflective memorial garden in honor of children lost to gun violence. It would serve as a way for parents to honor their children through the beauty of nature. It would also give them a place to remember their loved one outside of a cemetery, which, to some, adds to their feeling of grief.

The site of the proposed reflection garden includes a river, trees, towering cliffs at West Rock and birds that fly overhead.

“It would give me a sense of healing,” Marlene said. “It would also be something I feel I can give back in my son’s honor. We had no time to say goodbye.”Related Content: Gov. Malloy says Americans are ‘addicted to guns’ at gun violence round table

“It makes it feel like something more beyond just the mission that we typically do,” said Chris Ozyck of URI. “It’s an opportunity to really help people heal.”

URI helps to beautify New Haven by helping community groups who want to rejuvenate and renovate certain areas. For instance, they’ve transformed vacant areas into park-like areas that reignite community and neighborhood pride.

Ozyck says in order to make the reflection garden a reality, they’ll need community support, approval by the city, and fundraisers. He says this project could cost between $20,000 and $65,000. He says there are no specific plans as to what the garden would look like, but Marlene says she and some of the mothers have come up with a vision.Related Content: YouTube Bans Firearm How-To Videos & Sale of Guns

“The vision here is for every mother to get a brick,” she said. “And on this brick what we’re going to do is we would put it in the ground. Each brick would make up the sidewalk with the child’s name.”

“And we’re looking at URI to give us a tree that we’d put center in this area and that tree would represent the tree of life for our children,” Marlene said. “Most of all, it would give me a sense of healing of knowing that the city has not forgotten my child or any of the other mothers’ children.”

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