Community dedicates Somer's Sunshine Park

Park built by volunteers, dedicated to memory of Orange Park victim

ORANGE PARK, Fla. - On the day Somer Thompson would have turned 10, a new park near the place where she was kidnapped and killed in 2009 was dedicated to her memory.

Somer Sunshine Park, located at the corner of Debarry and Gano avenues in Orange Park, was built mostly by volunteers.

"It's nice that people are still standing behind us after 900 days," said Diena Thompson, Somer's mother. "It's awesome to know that the community is still rallying around us."

Classmates wearing purple -- Somer's favorite color -- attended the ceremony and sang "Your are my sunshine," her favorite song.

It features many plants that attract butterflies. At the opening ceremony, Somer's twin brother, Sam, released butterflies in the park.

"We were twins and I don't think I've ever hugged her or told her I loved her," he told the crowd. "I'm just thanking everybody that came out to help build this park, and I'm just really, really grateful for this."

In addition to the park being available as a playground for area children, it also serves a a reminder to parents that crime can happy anywhere, even a community where everyone felt safe.

Diena Thompson said driving by the area doesn't make her sad. She's happy the park was built and hopes it really makes a difference.

"The children, they always make me feel so good because they remember Somer and they come up and hug on me," Diena Thompson said. "It just gives me a little piece of her."

In addition to the park's official opening Thursday, Clay County also proclaimed it Somer Thompson Day.

"Clay County has always been a small community where we thought we were insulated from these types of things," Sheriff Rick Beseler said. "I think it's just an awareness that parents should hug their children take care of their children and watch over them."

Earlier this year, Jarred Harrell was sentenced to six life sentences after pleading guilty to kidnapping, raping and killing Thompson.

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