ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Nearly 10 years since the tragic death of Somer Thompson, her mother hopes the 7-year-old's death will bring awareness to child abuse.
On Thursday, News4Jax met with Diena Thompson, Somer's mother, at Somer's Garden, which is where her daughter's killer's home once stood. The Orange Park girl was kidnapped, raped and suffocated by her neighbor in 2009 after he lured her into his home on her walk home from school.
On Friday, which would have been Somer's 17th birthday -- a day she used to share with her twin brother -- Thompson said will be visiting her daughter's grave.
"I get to go through these birthdays every year with the siblings, with the brother, and it's bittersweet," Thompson said. "I get to celebrate him, but unfortunately, I have to miss my little girl because a monster came into my world and took her away.”
Thompson is now making efforts to inform other parents about child abuse.
"Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do to change this. I can blow out all the birthday candles for the rest of my life and it's not going to make a difference. I can wish on all the shooting stars, but it's not going to make a difference," Thompson said. "But the reality of it is that I can possibly make a difference for somebody else and that’s what I’m going to do."
In memory of Somer, The Monique Burr Foundation for Children, The Somer Sunshine Scholarship, Children's Safe Passage and Darkness to Light Stewards of Children are working together to provide safety training. The services offer online training to learn how to prevent, recognize and react appropriately to sexual abuse.
"I’ve said many times in these past 10 years that I wished that there would have been someone such as myself out here telling about classes that were available. Maybe if I would have taken those classes, I wouldn’t be in this situation," Thompson said. "But unfortunately for myself, I’ll never get to know that. So maybe someone will come along and take this class and save maybe one or more children. And to me, that’s a win."
Thompson said she wants to make sure no other family has to experience a tragedy like Somer’s and that other families have the opportunity to celebrate birthdays with their children.
"I don’t want anyone else to have another Somer or to be another Diena. I want to be a beacon of hope and light in something so ugly," Thompson said. "I can’t change it for myself, but maybe for someone else."