The memory of two Lenihan Intermediate School students who died this year lives on with their family and friends. After Thursday, memories now live on through trees planted at the school.
The school held a special ceremony near its soccer field honoring Andres Favela-Lopez and Elizabeth Banderas as two trees were planted in remembrance of the 10-year-olds.
Favela-Lopez drowned in the Iowa River in June and Banderas died of a severe asthma attack in October.
T-R PHOTO BY ANDREW POTTER
Christian Banderas, 12, helps plant a tree Thursday at Lenihan Intermediate School to honor his sister Elizabeth, who died in October of a severe asthma attack.
Groups of students and Lenihan staff gathered around the trees with family members and friends as the trees were planted. Family and friends helped fill in the dirt by the trees.
"It gives my kids and friends some place they can come and look at something in his memory," said Lori Pantoja, the mother of Andres. "It's very emotional for me."
The Banderas family appreciated the support of the school and the community for the honor.
"It symbolizes how much she was loved in our community and how much we miss her," said Antonio Banderas, Jr., who is Elizabeth's brother.
Several students hugged and cried when the trees were planted as they remembered their classmates and friends.
"I thought this would be a very nice healing ceremony for the kids," said Lenihan Principal Ralph Bryant.
The red maple plantings were done by Project 52, an organization based in Des Moines that honors those who have died, especially children. It was started by Dustin Blythe and Bill Clark after Blythe's son was murdered.
"Losing a child is the worst thing you can experience as a parent," Blythe said.
Project 52 has now planted 108 trees in remembrance of those who have died, and they use a special shovel with all the names of those honored written on it.