The team at the Briggs & Barrett Project has debuted a musical playground at the Nursery of Hope near Skyview Lake, hoping to give families a space to remember their lost children.
Partnering with the City of Norfolk, which owns the land, the team broke ground in 2019. Construction recently finished, revealing a small playground and several trees dedicated to lost loved ones. It lies just west of Skyview Lake, dividing the walking trail beneath the bridge.
Norfolk's Nursery of Hope, one of many across the country, was part of an outreach on behalf of the Briggs & Barrett Project, an organization promoting awareness about sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, and sudden unexpected infant death, or SUID. The project's two founders, Melissa West and Allison Uecker, both lost children to SUID and SIDS, respectively, and have made it their mission to teach parents about newborn safety and provide them "with SIDS and SUID education, tools and resources," according to the group’s website.
The musical playground serves as a place for families to visit the memorials and reflect while their children play. The team has finalized the tree orders for this planting season and added more plaques. With the future plans of a book library and seating area, the space will soon be completely filled.
Prospective donors may donate a tree or bench in someone's name, or they can choose something completely new. The choices are "limitless," said Emily Afrank, director of community relations at the Briggs & Barrett Project.
"We're open to different ideas," she said. "We want to make it personal to that family, like if their child was into sports or reading. We can add something unique."
The reason for a musical playground, specifically, is to bring a sense of calm to the area. Afrank referenced music's traditionally soothing properties and that it would bring something unique to the area. Beneath a tarp, children can bang on a rainbow xylophone and wave between cones while parents watch from jewel-toned benches.
What people should take away from the new addition, Afrank said, is what the Briggs & Barrett Project provides: Peace of mind and awareness on safe sleep practices. She hopes the playground can "bring joy" to families suffering tragedy.
"We feel that music has a good healing property to it and it brings joy," Afrank said. "It's such a sad time, and yet you want to celebrate their life, and we want to be able to give them a place where they can find joy as well as celebrate their child's life."