MANDEVILLE, La. -- Samantha Vinturella was a 12-year-old into the arts, her school and her church. It was all of those things that came together to comfort her family in July 2011, when she was killed in a boating accident near Shell Beach.
Today, her parents are trying to turn that sadness into something special.
"We were trying to think of a way to memorialize her here and we batted it around a little bit and we came up with the playground," said her father, David Vinturella.
The project already has a fence and a concrete slab at St. Timothy's United Methodist Church in Mandeville. The equipment for phase one, for kids age 2 to 5, will be installed over the weekend. The long-term goal involves two more phases, including a play set for the church's 1- and 2-year-olds, as well another for 5- to 12-year-olds. The plans also include mosaics, inspired by Sam's artwork and made by her friends, to reflect the story of creation.
"It's a blessing to think that Sam's life can enrich another child's life," said mother Elizabeth Vinturella.
The community has already done so much to get this project started, including private donations from families and children’s donations from lemonade stands. But they still need a lot more help, $150,000, to get the rest of the project finished.
"A lot of dinners and we had a plant sale. We've just done a lot of different things and raised a lot of the money, which got us to where we are now, which was difficult, and we need to take a step up and move beyond to get to the next two phases that we want to do," Vinturella said.
They know it's something Sam would want too.
"She loved the kids and this is what this is all for and I think she would be very happy about it," he said.
If you’d like to help complete the memorial project, you can send donations to St. Timothy’s United Methodist Church in Mandeville with a note for "Samantha’s Playground." You can also visit the Facebook Page for the project at www.facebook.com/samanthasplayground.