RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WCCO) — Thursday marks a heartbreaking anniversary for a Wisconsin community. Two years ago, three little girls, 11-year-old Amara, 8-year-old Sophie and 5-year-old Cecilia, were killed by their father in their River Falls home.
Aaron Schaffhausen admitted he took their lives to hurt his ex-wife. He was convicted on three counts of first-degree intentional homicide and will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
The girls’ mother, Jessica Peterson, has turned her attention to building a memorial playground for the girls as a way to heal. An annual run will take place on July 19 as a fundraiser for the playground.
There are different ways to overcome grief.
For Peterson, hearing the planning and preparation that goes into remembering her three daughters is one way to move forward.
“It reinforces my belief that the world over is filled with more good people than bad people,” she said.
For the last several months, Hannah Bellrichard and Samantha Jensen have organized the second annual Tri-Angels 5K run. Each mile of the course honors one of the girls.
“We’re able to have the pictures up and the balloons to focus on the girls and to have each mile remember them,” Jensen said.
The run works as a fundraiser to will give Amara, Sophie, and Cecilia a permanent place in River Falls.
“I think it brings our community together, and it just shows how much support we really are getting,” Bellrichard said.
The Tri-Angels playground will be a source of joy for kids all ages and abilities.
“It’s going to be a unique playground,” Peterson said. “It’s going to be wonderful.”
For her, the memorial will also connect her future to her past.
“There is quite a bit of sadness,” she said. “At the same time, it helps to have that hope pulling me through.”
A new husband and a newborn baby girl have opened the door to life beyond incredible loss.
“[The baby’s] full name is Trinity Hope. Hope is what she is for me. Trinity, my husband picked the name out as a way to remember my girls,” Peterson said.
An unthinkable act changed her life, but play will build love between her new family and her three angels.
“It’s going to be nice for her seeing her sisters in the only way she can,” Peterson said.
The run will take place at Hoffman Park in River Falls on July 19 at 8 a.m.
You can register the day of the race. Registration numbers are down from last year, so organizers are hoping more people participate.
The playground will cost half a million dollars. They’ve raised about $300,000, so there’s still a ways to go.
If you’d like to register for the race, click here and type in the keyword Tri-Angels.