EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- With hundreds of hours of student volunteer time and thousands of dollars in donations, a new local tribute to fallen Eugene Police Officer Chris Kilcullen is now open.
Willamette High School students and Officer Chris Kilcullen’s family and friends helped cut the ribbon on the Chris Kilcullen Memorial Garden on Tuesday, June 26th, 2012.
The memorial broke ground in January 2012 after several months of planning. Since then, the memorial has grown a new life from an old courtyard that was a near mud pit.
Students in Willamette High School’s leadership class helped put the garden together, putting in low maintenance shrubs, new grass, a sprinkler system, also brick and stone pathways.
In the process, the students amassed thousands of dollars in donated materials and student volunteer hours on the weekends.
Officer Chris Kilcullen was a 1986 graduate of Willamette High School. Kilcullen was killed in the line of duty in April 2011 after being shot while conducting a traffic stop.
Elizabeth Mingus was one of the student organizers on the project. Mingus never had a chance to meet Officer Kilcullen, but committed to the project after hearing about how much of an impact his life and death had on the community. Mingus says she realized just how powerful the project was when she saw dozens of volunteers working on it from various different community groups.
“This isn't about leadership, it's not about putting in my community service hours so I can get this diploma or whatever, it's about doing something for the community and coming together for a greater cause and showing your respect for somebody that, you know, laid their life down for the law,” says Elizabeth Mingus, a Willamette High School senior.
While contractors did a lot of heavy lifting on the project, including moving a 4,800 pound rock on to the site, many credit the students for keeping the project on target and getting much of the work done.
“They dug in and put forth the effort to make this happen and that's important and I think it says a lot for our students today,” says Randy Lodge, a contractor with Ehler’s Construction, who helped rebuild the courtyard into the Memorial Garden.
One of the most significant parts of the garden is the benches and what they’re made out of. Students wrote paper messages to Officer Kilcullen, then burned the paper and put the ashes into the concrete that made the benches.
Virtually every piece of the garden project came through some kind of donation, including plants and professional contractors’ labor.