Angel of Hope Memorial Garden in Coleraine: Remembrance garden where every dearly departed child will have own star in Heaven
Hundreds of bronze stars to mark the loss of children will soon adorn the Angel of Hope Memorial Garden in Coleraine.
Work has just started on the special garden of remembrance, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.
It was founded by Coleraine hairdresser Andrea McAleese, the mother of three-year-old Roma, who was killed in a car accident outside their home in 2009.
Each bronze star to be mounted at the garden will commemorate the death of a child of any age.
The garden - being built on land donated by the former Coleraine Borough Council - will cost more than £60,000 and is due to be completed in September.
Ms McAleese and her supporters have already raised £48,000, but said fundraising to maintain the garden will need to continue after it opens.
"We have people contacting us all the time, parents of young children who died well over 20 years ago, to tell us they have never had an opportunity like this to commemorate their loss," she told the Belfast Telegraph.
"Each of the bronze stars will have the names and age of the child, because as children we are told that each star represents a soul in Heaven.
"This idea makes for a dignified reference to the missed loved one, but it will also be a peaceful place were parents can come and remember their children."
Ms McAleese started a campaign last year to have a memorial garden after she acknowledged in her grief the need to have a calm and peaceful place to visit to remember Roma.
One of the grieving parents who has since joined Ms McAleese in the campaign is John McGarvey of Castlerock, Co Derry. He and his wife Jennifer lost their only daughter Kelly when she fell to her death at Downhill on January 2, 2014 while out exercising her dog.
The family believe that Kelly (30), an older sister to Jonathan and Patrick, died in a bid to save her blind dog, which was found seriously injured afterwards.
Mr McGarvey has helped to raise several thousand pounds towards the garden, but as a contractor he will now also help build it.
"This garden is for families irrespective of creed, colour or whatever background," Mr McGarvey said.
For further details go to www.angelofhopegarden.com
"Roma was a happy, outgoing wee girl, who was loved by everyone who met her. My whole life changed that day, it tore our family apart.
"Bereaved parents fear their child being forgotten, they don't want people to think they were never there.
"We hope that maybe when parents are there, another mother or father visiting will know how it feels and talk to them."