Somer's Sunshine Park set to open

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The death of Somer Thompson changed the Orange Park community, and now the construction of a park in her memory is nearly complete.

Somer's Sunshine Park is an acre of land near where the 7-year-old was kidnapped and killed in 2009.

"This is something kids shouldn't have to deal with or even worry about, but times have changed," said Todd Demers, who grew up in Somer's neighborhood.

In preparation of the park's opening April 5 on Somer's birthday, also the day the Clay County Commission proclaimed Somer Thompson Day, the town wants volunteers to come out to help on a community work day at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The grassy area at the intersection of Debarry and Gano avenues was already public property, and the Somer Thompson Foundation asked the city last fall to make it a memorial to Somer.

Diena Thompson, Somer's mother, founded the organization to raise awareness of crimes against children. People in the community are thrilled about the park opening.

"It should be an eye-opener for everybody to keep a close watch on your kids and everything, so like I said, I think the park is a great idea," said Reginald Shaw, who lives nearby.

After the Town Council signed off, more than a dozen businesses and organizations offered free materials or time to make it happen. The value of donations totaled about $25,000.

Ninety-five percent of everything it took to get the park up has been donations, officials said, although the city has budgeted $20,000 for what donations don't cover.

Parents said they are glad donors stepped up for the memorial.

There will be no parking lot at the park because it's intended for residents of the neighborhood to walk or bike there.

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