When Misty Smith heard that more children had drowned in the Iowa River, her heart sank. But instead of wringing her hands with worry or pointing a finger, she decided to do something.
A little over a week later, she attended a softball game at the South Sixth Street Softball Complex. There she met Leigh Bauder, who overheard Smith talking about getting a splashpad installed at Riverview Park.
"We need to talk," Bauder told her.
Children keep cool at a splash pad in this AP file photo. A local effort to install the first of five splashpads throughout Marshalltown is underway. The first of the splashpads at Riverview Park would remember the four children who recently drowned in the Iowa River.
The duo began hashing out an idea as to how to make the memorial splashpad - a series of features that spray water for users to play in -happen.
They wanted to ensure that not just kids, but everyone had a place to cool down at the park. They wanted to help ensure another tragedy like the pair of drowning incidents that killed Andres Favela, Leh Meh, Sae Reh and Thay Mo all within three weeks of one another never happened again.
Then, Bauder said, it hit her: they needed to stop expecting the city or someone else to remedy the situation.
"We are the people," she said
Smith started an online petition on change.org. By Tuesday night, the petition had 276 digital signatures. She said if the petition reaches 1,000 signatures, the site will help with fundraising efforts.
Bauder said less than a week after meeting Smith, the project is already starting to take off. The city has been very supportive, she said, and the two are looking for council approval of a grant application to fund the project.
Blue Cross Blue Shield offers a grant that ranges from $20,000 to $150,000 for projects that demonstrate a commitment to health and safety.
Smith and Bauder have decided to pursue the grant. The application deadline is Aug. 13.
"It's about showing them the uniqueness of the idea and the need for it," Smith said. "I felt like it was definitely needed ... it felt so right."
The local women - Bauder is a consultant and Smith is a family-based counselor at Youth & Shelter Services of Marshall County - decided to name the project Splash 4 Life. The "4" symbolizes the four children who lost their lives in the river.
They said they would like the first of the five splashpads to be open by Memorial Day or Fourth of July 2013.
The initiative is all about safety and bridging cultural gaps, the two said.
"The river is really dangerous," Smith said. "If we have splashpads, it will deter people from wanting to swim in the river."
Bauder said it is about stressing the "unity" in "community."
She said she has been working with the city to help facilitate the process, but that the project will be privately funded.
"This intent behind it is not to add to taxes," she said.
Although things have begun to take off in the last week, there is still much work to do. Also, with RAGBRAI just around the corner, municipal employees, specifically parks and recreation staff, have their hands full.
And, raising the money will be no small hurdle.
Cory Anderson, partner at Vortex midwest, said even a low-end splashpad costs between $75,000 and $80,000.
Vortex manufacturers more than 80 percent of the splashpads sold in the country.
Construction typically takes between eight and 16 weeks while upkeep ranges from $12,000 to $17,000 a year.
"It's something we can definitely make happen," Smith said. "I just want something to come out of this tragedy."
The effort is still getting off the ground. To get involved, visit the Facebook page at Splash_4_life, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to change.org to sign the online petition.