By Sharon Aron Baron

After 14-year-old Alyssa’s funeral, a large yellow butterfly flew past her parents, Ilan and Lori Alhadeff. 

“It was at that moment they felt that it was Alyssa talking to them,” recalls Rabbi Shuey Biston of Chabad of Parkland on Sunday during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Alyssa’s Playground, one of 17 victims in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting on February 14, 2018.

Butterflies and Alyssa’s love of soccer were the inspiration for the playground, where volunteers raised $300,000 in her memory. World-renowned artist and sculptor Joel Amit was commissioned to create a three-dimensional art display of butterflies depicting the word love alongside plaques memorializing fallen loved ones.

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Lori, founder of Make Our Schools Safe and a school board member with Broward County Public Schools, said she never imagined that a meeting she had four and a half years ago with the Where Angels Play Organization would have led to the completion of the playground.

Founded after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 in Newtown, CT, Where Angels Play has built playgrounds around the U.S.

When representatives from Where Angels Play asked Lori where she wanted the playground, she knew the perfect place. 

Three years ago, the couple visited the location on Loxahatchee Road before Chabad of Parkland was built. According to Lori, it was just dirt and grass, and even though nothing was there, she knew it would be the perfect place “in the backyard of Parkland.”

“I’m sure that as we stand here today, Alyssa is beaming down with happiness, knowing that thousands of children will be able to happily play in this most beautiful, gorgeous, magnificent space. And the soccer theme playground is exactly what Alyssa would have wanted,” said Lori.

Butterflies, Soccer Inspiration for Alyssa's Playground in Parkland
A child looking at photos of Alyssa Alhadeff, who died on Feb. 14, 2018. {Sharon Aron Baron}

Since 2014, the Alhadeffs have been members of Chabad of Parkland, along with their children, who attend Hebrew school.

Rabbi Biston added the playground was open to the entire Parkland community. Visiting hours are every day between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., with an accessible entrance to the playground from the outside. On Sundays, it’s open from 1:00 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Butterflies, Soccer Inspiration for Alyssa's Playground in Parkland
Alyssa loved soccer, so it was part of the theme of the new playground. {Sharon Aron Baron}

Alyssa’s Playground is located at Chabad of Parkland, 7170 Loxahatchee Rd.

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Author Profile

Sharon Aron Baron
Sharon Aron Baron
Sharon Aron Baron is a Parkland resident and editor of Talk Media. She has been covering Parkland news since 2012. Parkland Talk was created to provide News, Views, and Entertainment for the residents of Parkland.

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