PONTIAC, Mich. – Wind, rain, and mud couldn't stop volunteers from building a place of joy and remembrance.
Volunteers, family, friends and coworkers came together to build a playground for Haven, a shelter for domestic violence and sexual assualt victims, in honor of a 16-year-old girl who died on the way to doing what she loved.
Darian Locklear and one of her teammates, Julianna Ward-Brown, died in a car crash back in February while on their way to hockey practice. With no good answers as to why this tragedy happened, Darian's mom, Regina Locklear, found a way to honor her.
Locklear worked with her employer, Cooper Standard Automotive, who stepped in to support the playground project.
"I've never worked for a company that cared about their employees as much as Cooper Standard does," Locklear said.
Cooper Standard Automotive worked with Haven, a place Locklear and Darian were both familiar with, making the playground possible.
"Well last year, we started doing what we call STEM camps with the children," Locklear said. "It was like a summer camp that we did last year and we did little science experiments with them."
Haven's director of development Blanca Fauble is overjoyed with how the playground turned out.
"The playground looks awesome," Fauble said. "You can see the eyes of the children just light up and you can hear their laughter that is so joyful for the circumstances that they're in."
Michigan Recreational Construction also helped with the playground build.
Locklear knows her daughter would be thrilled.
"And it's just so much thought went into it that I think she is looking down on us and she's smiling," Locklear said. "She's happy."
Darian was known for her spirit of kindness she spread around her high school. Her prescence changed the way people looked at life.
"One girl was ready to commit suicide," Locklear said.
The girl told Locklear the only reason she didn't commit suicide is because of Darian.
Locklear had bracelets that read "Kindess is Beautiful" made and Darian's friends passed them out around their school with hopes to change some kids' mindsets.
"If we can just get some kids to think about how they treat people," Locklear said. "And maybe not be the abuser's of tomorrow cause that's why places like Haven exist. Unfortunately, it's because kids just don't treat people with respect."
Darian's message is bound to live on.
"Her kindness now is spilling over into Haven," Blanca said.
Darian’s Playground was made possible through a grant by the Cooper Standard Foundation in addition to matching funds raised by Haven, by Cooper Standard Automotive’ s employees and Darian’s friends and family. Future donations will be used to maintain the playground and grow a garden.
Haven provides shelter, counseling, advocacy and educational programs to survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. It is based in Oakland County, but helps victims across the metro Detroit area. For more information on Haven, click here. https://www.haven-oakland.org/
Haven’s 24 hour crisis and support line: 877-922-1274.
Locklear has had many requests for the bracelets, for more information, click here.