RIVER FALLS, Wis (WCCO) – The River Falls community is helping a mother overcome grief by raising money for a memorial playground.
Hundreds took part in the annual Tri-Angels 5K and 10K run Saturday morning to remember 11-year-old Amara, 8-year-old Sophie, and 5-year-old Cecilia Schaffhausen.
In 2012, the three young girls were killed by their father, Aaron Schaffhausen, in their River Falls home.
Since then, their mother, Jessica Peterson, has been working to raise money to build a memorial playground at Hoffman Park which would be accessible to children of all ages and abilities.
Each year she attends the Tri-Angels run and on Saturday she had new family by her side. Jessica recently gave birth to a new daughter named Trinity Hope.
“There’s a lot of hope embodied in her, so, it helps make those steps a little lighter and not so dark,” Jessica Peterson said.
Jessica joined the more than 800 participants who walked a three mile course around town. Each mile was dedicated to each of her three daughters. Walkers and runners saw pictures of Amara, Sophie and Cecilia at all stages of life.
Her new husband, Matt, also ran the 5K.
“It means a lot, just for Jessica and the girls. She’s just such an inspiration that Jessica can do this and be here,” Matt Peterson said.
Many of the participants were community members, but some traveled from nearby towns and cities to show support. Angela Mathison lives in Spring River, Wisconsin, and wanted to help Jessica’s cause.
“I can’t imagine what the community went through, much less the mother. It’s just heart wrenching to think this happens,” Mathison said.
Fundraising has been underway for nearly two years for the $500,000 Tri-Angels memorial playground. Saturday’s run brought in another $30,000, but there’s still more work that needs to be done. Right now, the fundraising total sits around $350,000.
“We’re hoping to have that community park to play on and enjoy the girls for the rest of our lives,” Jeff Pizzi, of River Falls, said.
Jessica believes they’ll meet the goal by next year, so work can begin by May of 2015.
“There’s a lot of joy here and I try to focus on that,” Jessica Peterson said.
For those who would like to donate, visit the Tri-Angels Playground online.