NORTH ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – One Twin Cities community is rallying around a local family to help them cope with the death of their child.
Tony and Sarah Zahradka lost their 18-month-old daughter, Janie, two months ago.
Her passing is called Sudden Unexplained Death in a Child, or SUDC, which is 54-times rarer than SIDS.
Sometimes loss is so painful that moving on seems impossible.
“She was just kind of taken for no reason. It’s kind of hard to deal with,” Tony said.
The Zahradkas still haven’t fully adjusted to life without Janie.
“Grief is hard. We couldn’t go to work for the first couple of weeks,” Sarah said.
That grief is made more difficult because there’s no clear explanation of how Janie died. The vibrant, active little girl went to bed two months ago, but never woke up.
“She was walking, she was running around the house. So it was very, very, shocking,” Tony said.
Her parents look at pictures to help to keep her memory alive, many of which were taken at a nearby park. But Janie was limited in where she could play since the old playground equipment wasn’t made for a toddler.
“It’s not real safe for an 18 month old,” Tony said.
Her parents now dream of a new play space for all ages. They’re fundraising to build a new playground at Casey Lake Park.
The new space would offer swings, tunnels and have an outdoor theme. The Zahradkas want a playground that captures Janie’s spirit.
“I want it to be an attraction, in a way. I want people to really want to come here,” Sarah said.
Janie’s death caused a heartbreak that will never fully fade. But in her memory, her parents hope for happiness.
“I think that’s kind of the most amazing thing, that, in a way, that will kind of be her spirit coming back to us,” she said.
The Zahradka’s hope to raise $20,000 by next spring. So far, they’ve collected $12,000.
Donations can be sent below:
Janie’s Memorial Playground
Attn: Kristi Murray
2700 Seventh Ave. E
North St. Paul, MN 55109
Or go to Janie’s Memorial Playground page on Facebook.