MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The community in Wisconsin’s River Falls came together Saturday to help a mother overcome a devastating loss nearly three years ago.
In July of 2012, Aaron Schaffhausen killed his daughters — Amara, Sophie and Cecilia.
Since then, the community has worked to raise $550,000 for a memorial playground in their honor.
This spring, they reached their goal.
The building of a playground at Hoffman Park in River Falls will take weeks to finish. But ask volunteers and they will say the wait is worth it. Samantha Jensen helped organize the fundraising effort.
“Hoffman Park is really going to be turned into a place of remembering the girls,” Jensen said. “It’s just wonderful to see the teamwork that’s happening today.”
When it is finished, the Tri-Angels Playground will serve as a way for the community to heal from the loss of the sisters.
Three years after their deaths, the pain is still felt by many.
“I wouldn’t say nobody ever recovers from it, they just learn to cope with it,” volunteer Keith Tollefson said.
The area will be broken into three different sections that are dedicated to each girl, and the design will allow kids of all abilities to play. The non-profit organization Unlimited Play organized the playground project.
“We put in spongy-surfaced ramping on every single platform, specialized therapeutic climbers, high-backed swings, shading, fencing and a lot of different features that you don’t see on a typical playgrounds,” Unlimited Play’s Victory Schmitt Babb said.
But the unique features carried a hefty price tag of more than a half-million dollars.
Saturday may have been the first day the physical building began for volunteers, but the playground has been a part of the community for the last two years with countless fundraising efforts.
“We’ve never been short on volunteers for this cause,” Jensen said.
By the end of summer, the playground will be a place to remember the Schaffhausen sisters, not for how they left this world, but the legacy they leave behind.
The girls’ mother, Jessica Peterson, could not help build on Saturday because she is expecting her fifth child, a boy. She remarried last year.
The playground will be ready for the public in mid-August. There will be a memorial 5K run and grand opening on Aug. 15.
Money raised will go to playground maintenance or future improvements. Click here for more information on donating.