Local News: Sunday, October 31, 2004
At Meadowbrook Park, the spirit of Annie plays on
Seattle Times staff reporter
ELLEN M. BANNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Lauren Yasuda, right, hugs Judy Williams, one of her daughter Annie's
former teachers, at the renovated playground in Northeast Seattle
now referred to as the Friends of Annie's Playground. The playground
was dedicated yesterday in memory of the little girl, who died at
Annie Yasuda's brief life, she found joy in everyday things: animals,
hugs, meeting new people. But there were few things she loved more
than a trip to Meadowbrook Park, across the street from her home
in Northeast Seattle.
so yesterday, nearly three years after Annie died suddenly in her
sleep at age 2, about 150 family, friends and neighbors gathered
to dedicate the park's renovated play area in her memory.
explored the playground's new concrete "cave" areas and
clambered over new, top-of-the-line play structures, while adults
admired the elaborate tile-mosaic murals that graced walls and benches.
The forecast had called for a blustery, drizzly day, but instead,
"the sun is shining for Annie," said B.J. Brooks, Seattle
Parks and Recreation deputy superintendent.
M. BANNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Lauren Yasuda, holding ceremonial scissors, her husband
Glenn (to her left) and their children, Nate, 8, and Sophie, 5,
along with some helpers, open the playground renovated in memory
of their daughter Annie. To the family's right are both sets of
mother, Lauren Yasuda, tried to stave off tears as she thanked the
volunteers and reminisced about Annie.
joyfulness brought such light to our lives," she said. "And
that's what we're hoping this playground brings to other people."
death in November 2001 was a blow to her entire family — Lauren,
father Glenn, and their children Nate, 8, and 5-year-old Sophie,
Annie's twin sister.
had been healthy before she died, and her parents still aren't sure
exactly what caused her death. Her case is being studied by a group
that researches sudden, unexplained child deaths, Lauren Yasuda
decision to help spruce up the dilapidated park across the street
from their home was a spur-of-the-moment idea in the weeks after
Annie's death, Yasuda said. "But it immediately just seemed
right," she said.
doesn't remember exactly how she did it — that period of her
life just after Annie's death "is all a fog," she said
— but somehow she was able to get the project's momentum going
by contacting the city's Parks and Recreation Department and starting
the grant-application process.
the Yasudas hadn't worked on a community project of this scope,
they say it has been a positive learning experience and helped them
build better relationships with their neighbors.
ELLEN M. BANNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Sophie Yasuda, twin sister of Annie Yasuda, takes a turn on the
monkey bars yesterday. Volunteers donated nearly 1,500 hours of
work to renovate the playground that Annie loved.
The playground improvements were paid for with a combination of
levy money and major maintenance money from Seattle Parks and Recreation,
donations through the Friends of Annie's Playground group and $86,000
in neighborhood matching grants from the city.
donated nearly 1,500 hours toward the renovation, much of it during
a series of work parties last spring and summer, when they helped
create and lay the thousands of tiles.
have been challenges along the way: Fund raising didn't come naturally
to Lauren, and the group had to occasionally jump through hoops
to get city approval and line up grants.
as she surveyed the children scrambling over the new playground
equipment yesterday, Yasuda said the project has been "very
turned out just right," she said.