By: Jen Russon
Butterflies, sorrow, and joy permeated the air at Betti Stradling Park as the family of Meadow Pollack dedicated a playground in her name as well as paying tribute to all 17 victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas nearly two years ago.
Her father, Andrew Pollack, took the podium after his sons Hunter and Huck, cousin Adam and mother, Evelyn delivered remarks about Princess Meadow’s Playground coming to fruition after 18 months of community efforts and fundraising.
The event also included Coral Springs Mayor Scott Brook, Parkland Mayor Christine Hunchofsky, Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine, city commissioners, and Coral Springs City Manager Frank Babinec.
Pollack, who currently lives in Oregon, stood before hundreds of well-wishers, many of them children, eager to play on the colorful new park equipment.
“How could I honor her legacy and keep it alive forever – that vibrancy she brought into a room every time she stepped into it, and every time I looked at her?” recalled Pollack, his voice breaking.
He added that, in his view, visiting his daughter’s grave at the Star of David Cemetery in North Lauderdale could never be enough to honor Meadow’s kind heart, for him or the community.
“I had a vision to build a playground to honor her, where people could go and remember Meadow and children could play and laugh, and remember all the victims and what happened that day,” said Pollack.
Shortly after he spoke, Meadow’s stepmother Julie Pollack released monarch butterflies from a box decorated with pink bows. She said the butterflies symbolize transformation, fragility, and beauty and that Meadow’s cousin, Becca had come up with the idea of bringing comfort to people by releasing them.
When Parkland mayor Christine Hunchofsky spoke at the event, she said the Pollack family’s dedication and commitment to bringing something so beautiful to the city of Coral Springs were deeply appreciated and that Meadow Pollack would never be forgotten.
Speaking directly to Andrew Pollack, Hunchofsky said, “Andy, thank you for your determination for making sure there is such a beautiful, vibrant place for children for the end of time, to enjoy and remember.”
Coral Springs city commissioner Larry Vignola elaborated as much during his speech. The 17 names that include Meadow Jade Pollack’s are now listed on pink memorial plates at the entrance of the playground. After reading the victims’ names, Vignola said the space was designed with exceptional love and care.
“Princess Meadow’s Playground will bring joy, happiness and a place for families to gather for years to come,” said Vignola, adding that, though the park is named for Meadow, it is intended to bring comfort for all affected by the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Standing close to Vignola during his remarks, were families with loved ones who died in the shooting were the Alhadeff’s and the Hixon’s, who applauded when it was time to cut the ribbon. Further back in the crowd, Max Schachter stood watching as close to 100 children were invited to experience Princess Meadow’s Playground for the first time.
In the swarms of people attending the ribbon-cutting, several recalled what happened two Valentine’s Day’s ago that still gives them chills, as well as breaks their hearts.
A woman carrying a baby said she named her daughter “Celine Jade,” after Meadow Jade Pollack.
Harolyn Farber and Sherry Landau, who run LuvBirds, nonprofit distributing painted rocks with the message “love wins,” said they think of the 17 victims every day and probably always will.
Eric Rothstein, a dentist and friend of the Pollacks who volunteers to landscape and helps maintain Meadow’s grave at Star of David Cemetery, said he was happy his friend Andrew has a playground to spread Meadow’s motto, “Be kind to all kinds.”
“Andrew gets sad every time he goes out to the cemetery. He hates to think of leaving her behind there. With Meadow’s Playground, he feels like he’s leaving something alive for the community, and that’s why he pushed for it,” Rothstein said.
Along with the Pollack family, were the city of Coral Springs, Butters Construction and Development, HNM Architecture, Top Line Recreation, Smith Fence and GMA International; together, they created not just a playground, but a splash pad at Betti Stradling, which will be completed later this year.
Princess Meadow’s Playground is located at 10301 Wiles Road.
Photos Courtesy City of Coral Springs.
- Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.