Moms of three fallen sons team with city to bring Hobby Hill Park to life

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GLADSTONE, Mo. – A group of mothers is partnering with the city of Gladstone to bring life to a place in need of work and attention. The only feature at Hobby Hill Park are a shelter and restroom facilities, but city leaders and three mothers who lost their sons in a car accident are working together to bring the park to life.

Gladstone’s city motto is “Progress Through People.” That’s why Gladstone Parks and Recreation Director Sheila Lillis says the city is working to revamp Hobby Hill Park, based on suggestions from people who live in the area. The city bought the park from its owner in 1976. Now, they’re working to turn it into a Gladstone jewel.

“This really became just a very passive park. It’s a place that people are saying we want trials, we want a place to meet, we want a place to play, we want picnic areas,” Lillis said.

City leaders worked up a master plan a couple years back, based on public input from those who want to see the 31.9-acre park brought to life. This vision includes a unique partnership.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to work with three families from Gladstone, that have helped raise the funds and matched our funds for a master plan,” Lillis said.

Debbie Gwin, Peggy Storrs, and Michelle Sanderson sat side-by-side at a picnic table and spoke with Fox 4 Wednesday.

“Our world stopped on April 1, 2001.” Their sons, all three Oak Park High School graduates, died in a car accident," Gwin said.

“To be able to come to the park and reflect on it would be wonderful,” Storrs said.

The mothers have formed a group in honor of their boys: the JJK Kids Foundation (http://www.jjkkids.com/). In February, the group donated $5,000. The city of Gladstone matched the gift and now has $10,000 to move forward with the park planning.

“We want their lives to have meaning so doing something like this, helps us put meaning to that,” Sanderson said.

The mothers hope planners will put up a reflections area not just for themselves or for their sons.

“To help other families get through that grief, that is so raw. That hurts to the bone, to your heart, where you can’t even breathe. To have a place that is so peaceful and calming, and have those, to reflect,” Gwin said.

“Many people who lose children over the course of their lives, this would be a positive area for them too, so we feel like it’ll be a win-win for both the families who lost their children as well as the city,” Lillis said.

Work on the park is slated to begin in 2016. The city is hosting a public meeting at 7 p.m., Tuesday September 30 at the Gladstone Community Center. For more information click here: https://www.gladstone.mo.us/Recreation/