On a blustery Saturday afternoon at Elk Ridge Park in North Logan, families gathered to take advantage of the wind to get rainbow-colored kites up in the air.
"We thought flying a kite can represent raising families up to the highest height,” said Esterlee Molyneux, executive director of the Family Place, a social services agency who provide therapy, crisis counseling, family-friendly events and more across Cache and Rich counties.
The park hosted their annual Fly with the Family Place event, which is more than just kites. There was food, music, face-painting – even a booth with a man running an old-fashioned cup-and-ball game where kids could win prizes.
"The mission of The Family Place is to strengthen families and protect children," Molyneux said. "And we know families can be strengthened when they spend good quality positive time together. So Fly with the Family Place is a good conduit to support the good work parents are doing and encourage maybe a unique way for families to spend time together, because it's not so often we see people flying kites any more."
But there was also a new addition to this year’s event: a paint-your-own-rock table. It was inspired by Lizzy Shelley, the 5-year-old Logan girl who was tragically murdered last month.
"It's really interesting," Molyneux said. "The Family Place is very involved with the recent events with Lizzy, and we thought maybe we can add an additional event onto our annual Fly with the Family Place, and that is to invite our community to come and paint rocks. Because rocks were one of Lizzy's favorite things."
"We are going to plant a beautiful rock garden," she said. "What is so interesting is that we had planned to do this, and then her grandpa approached me last week and said, 'Is there someone out there who will do a rock garden for Lizzy?' We said, “we're already on it!” And they're actually here right now to contribute rocks themselves. It's a small thing that our community can do, children can do, parents can participate, just another way to remember sweet Lizzy.”
Though she balked at this idea, Molyneux was like the mayor of the event. She seemed to know everyone, and everyone seemed to know her. At one point, she walked over to a middle-aged man wearing sunglasses and a black windbreaker, who showed her a rock he had just finished painting. It depicts a rainbow, with the words LIVE LIKE LIZZY written underneath.
“We’re going to keep this in a very sacred, safe spot," Molyneux said. "We’re going to let this dry and put, like, shellac weatherproofing on that.”
The reason this rock was so special is that the man who painted it is Norman Black, Lizzy’s grandfather.
“I call her my granddaughter," Black said. "My son and Lizzy’s mother are engaged. I’ll just take grandfather, that’ll be fine.”
“I'm really impressed with the rock painting," Black said. "I didn't know we'd be painting rocks. I had it in my mind a vision of them taking a piece of grass somewhere, digging up the grass, and people putting their rocks there. But I like this better. You’re able to paint in whatever color scheme you want and put whatever picture you can on the rock. I like that. That personalizes it a bit more.”
Asked how it makes him feel to see so many families here painting rocks for Lizzy’s garden, and how he feels about the Cache County community, Black paused before answering.
“I honestly never thought about it much before," he said. "Now I think quite a bit differently. There have been people – the Family Place has been one – they have sent their volunteers to help my family through the grieving process with the loss of Lizzy. They've really pulled together. And they’ve been helping with all kinds of things. Sending us money, food, drink. They helped my son find a new apartment to move into because they didn’t want to move back into that particular place where the event happened.”
Black continued: “I’m just very impressed with Cache County in general, the City of Logan in particular – it's been wonderful. I can feel it honestly in my heart that they genuinely care about what's happened. This didn’t just affect the family, it affected the community as well. If this happened to us, it can probably happen to anyone. And nobody wants that to happen. The togetherness, the love, the camaraderie, if you will, has been tremendous.”
Asked what he'll do now that he's finished painting his rock, Black was clear.
“I haven’t flown a kite in a few years," he said. "My wife and I are going to put this one together and see if we can’t get it up in the air.”