RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WCCO) — A new playground in River Falls, Wis., opened Saturday in honor of the three Schaffhausen girls.

“The second we drove up my mom and I Just started crying,” Christine Thompson, who brought her three children to the park, said.  “I get emotional talking about it.”

The young girls were murdered by their father in their River Falls home three years ago. Their mother, Jessica Peterson, who remarried, decided to build the playground memorial to remember them. The Tri-Angels Playground opened for the first time Saturday.

“I wanted something that people could come and interact with their loved ones that are still here,” Jessica said.

The girls were a major part in the design of the playground.  There are soccer balls for Amara, artwork for Sophie and bugs for Cecilia.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better memorial for my girls,” Jessica said.

The 10,000 square foot playground cost $500,000 to build.  It was paid for through community fundraising and sponsor donations.

“Their legacy will be part of our community forever, this is for you girls,” Hannah Bellrichard, who helped organize the Tri-Angels 5K fundraiser for the park, said.

The girls’ headstone is in view of the playground but their spirits, Jessica says, are still in the park.

“Seeing things like the playground and people coming to support, that helps me to remember we are about love here and pushing back against that darkness with some light,” she said.

The playground is universally accessible for children with disabilities.  Aaron Shaffhausen is serving life in prison.

Kate Raddatz

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