(Photo by Kate Padilla) [Order this photo]
Project 52, a Des Moines organization that plants trees in honor of departed children, donated a tree in honor of Michael Rohan, the young boy who died tragically this summer at the Spencer Aquatic Center.
"He was a very special boy," Stephanie Anderson, administrator at Johnson Elementary, said to the students, "and he made a very special place in our hearts."
Project 52 was begun by Dustin Blythe, Bill Clark and Rev. John Dawson after Blythe's son, Treye, was killed in 2006.
"Losing a child is the worst thing you can experience," Blythe said. "No one should have to go through it, but you have to keep your faith, because things will get better."
Rohan's tree, a Sienna Glen Maple from Nodaway Tree Farm in Orient,Iowa, is Project 52's 92nd tree planted. With each planting, they use the same shovel and have the parents of the child write the child's name on the shovel. Then, each member of the family spoons a shovel of soil onto the tree.
Michael was in Rose Fear's kindergarten class last year, and after the family was finished, his former classmates lined up to place their own shovel of soil onto the tree.
Michael's sister, Lily, is in Fear's kindergarten class this year.
"This tree is Michael's new life here," Susan Rohan, Michael's mother, said to the students. "When you see it, I hope you think of him. And, maybe, when you think of him, water this tree so that he can grow big and strong."