SUGAR GROVE – When Mary Elliott heard about the accident that killed 13-year-old Caitlyn Phillips in the spring, Elliott said she immediately thought about how happy Caitlyn was while practicing with her cheer squad outside at Harter Middle School in Sugar Grove.
So when Elliott thought about planting a tree or a garden in Caitlyn’s memory, she thought that spot – just outside of the school’s cafeteria – would be the most fitting.
“She was just so happy and bubbly and sweet, and we wanted to pay tribute in a spot that kind of still had her happiness there,” she said.
Phillips, 13, of Elburn, died in late April after colliding with a car while in-line skating a few blocks from her home.
Elliott, whose daughter was on the cheer squad with Caitlyn, mobilized an effort to create the Caitlyn Phillips Memorial Garden, and she hopes to have a dedication ceremony by mid-August. She said talks of the memorial garden led the Kaneland Youth Football League to donate $200, and Caitlyn’s friends helped raise more than $420 during school lunch periods.
They now have a total of $790 to put toward the garden, and landscaper John Alagna, whose daughter knew Caitlyn, decided to do the landscaping and design for free.
Many others, including the Elburn Lions Club and Ream’s Elburn Market, have stepped up to help, too, Elliott added.
Alagna said Roger Storck from American Tree and Turf in Sugar Grove plans to dedicate a tree and has worked on the garden with Alagna.
He said because Caitlyn’s favorite color was yellow, he plans to incorporate that color into the garden wherever he can.
He plans to include elements that can be enjoyed through all four seasons by adding plants with holly berries and seeds that attract birds in the winter.
Plans also include double knockout roses in pinks and purples, as well as greenery with hints of yellow.
Alagna said it was “an honor” to help design the garden.
“You don’t want to forget about a child that had so much in front of her,” he said.
Elliott said she hopes to have a dedication ceremony for the garden before school starts, and it likely will be in mid-August.
Elliott said she hopes to have enough money to include a plaque with a QR – or Quick Response – code that will allow people to use a cellphone application to link to a website with photos and information about Caitlyn.
Elliott said if they accumulate any leftover donations, she’d like to put that money toward a scholarship in Caitlyn’s name, possibly to help a student who might not otherwise be able to afford to be a part of the school’s cheer program.