Supporters rally for ‘Brooke O’Grady Park’
City Council hesitates to give new park official name
Family and friends of the late Brooke O'Grady urging the Eudora City Council to remember the young cancer victim through the naming of a city park will have to wait to see if their effort is successful.
Eudora City Council members said Monday they were not ready to name the park and were concerned about excluding others by naming the park after one individual.
O'Grady, who lived in Eudora, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease at age 10 and battled the disease until her death in 2001. She was 15 years old.
A group of friends and family came to Monday's Council meeting in yellow shirts, carrying posters asking the Council to consider naming the new park Brooke O'Grady Park or Brooke's Park. The group chose to wear yellow because it was O'Grady's favorite color.
Eudora resident Robin Ross originally approached the Council in March to suggest that the park be named after O'Grady. At the time, Ross did not know the family well and only knew O'Grady through association.
The new park, known unofficially as Eastside Park, is located on 14th Street in Prairie Estates. Earlier in the year, Eudora Parks and Recreation Director Bobby Arnold asked the community to suggest names for the new park.
Besides O'Grady's name, other suggestions included Watts-Jerome Park after former Eudora school principals Charlie Watts and Tom Jerome, Alf T.H. Oleson Park, (Don) Abel Park, The Commons, Nature Park, 14th Street Park, Eudora's Greatest Park and Eudora Kids Park.
Some of the suggestions were grouped into one letter from one individual, while others were submitted individually.
Arnold said he received 18 letters total, 14 of which requested that the park be named after O'Grady.
Ashley Moran, a friend of O'Grady, said she was at the meeting because she knew her friend would have loved the idea of having a park in her name.
"She loved kids, and she would love to have a park named after her," Moran said. "She struggled so much with the disease and keeping her memory alive would be great."
Moran said she admired O'Grady for her dedication to the Relay For Life, an annual event in Eudora to raise money for cancer research.
"She was a really hard worker, and she's part of the reason that it is what it is today -- a community event," Moran said. "She made it a priority."
Moran has continued to be active in the Relay For Life and said she helped to keep O'Grady's relay team together after her death.
"I know that if Brooke was here, she would be ecstatic that we wanted to do this for her," Moran said.
Robyne Pippert, O'Grady's older sister, said the O'Grady family was honored by the suggestions made by community members to name the park for O'Grady.
"She devoted what little bit of life she had left to cancer research," Pippert said. "To have a park named after her where other kids could go and learn about what she did seems appropriate."
Members of the Council acknowledged that O'Grady was well known throughout the community for her involvement in the Relay For Life and for her lengthy battle with childhood cancer. However, some of the Council members were concerned that naming the park only after O'Grady would exclude others in the community who have had children die of cancer or from other causes.
Councilman Scott Hopson noted that other parks in the community were named by the Eudora Historical Society for people or organizations that were part of Eudora's early history.
Councilman Dan Gregg said he was not originally in favor of naming the park after O'Grady, but that after receiving positive feedback from the community and reading some of the letters supporting the name, he would be comfortable voting for the idea.
After much discussion between the Council, a decision was made to research the prospect of placing a large memorial in the park to remember several people who have made a difference to the community. "Memorial Park" was suggested as a name for the park.
Eudora Mayor Tom Pyle asked those that were at the meeting for the park-naming discussion to brainstorm and to bring more suggestions that might go along with a memorial park back to the Council later this month.
Gregg said that no matter what conclusion the Council came to, O'Grady's family should know that she was important to the community.
"You could have lived here a very few years and know who Brooke O'Grady is," he said. "Your daughter will never be forgotten."