Lakota teen’s untimely death has mom fundraising for campus garden

The mother of deceased Lakota West High School student Shayna Smith - who died unexpectedly in 2015 - is fundraising for a memorial garden to honor all the school’s teens who died too early. Shayna was a popular honors student and standout athlete at the Butler County high school.

Editor’s Note: This story first published on Feb. 23, 2019.

A memorial garden to mark untimely deaths of Lakota West High School teens is coming to its campus.

Backed by the mother of a former West student – whose daughter passed unexpectedly in 2015 – the idea is gaining both momentum and money through an online, fundraising campaign.

“After our 15 year-old-daughter Shayna passed away, it was so incredibly hard to drive past Lakota West High School,” said Tywana Smith.

Smith’s daughter was popular student at the Butler County school. An honors student and athletic star for the school, Shayna’s sudden death was mourned throughout the school community.

“For months I would go out of my way to avoid having to look at the school and what was not going to happen for our family there. When I finally did start to drive by I would just get … so sad. I would think not only about Shayna but all the parents who I knew had to feel like we did. I then started to think how I could start to get past those feeling when I drove by the school,” Smith said.

“One of the worst things for parents is thinking that our children will be forgotten as others move on and live life here in the physical (world).”

“A beautiful garden came to mind. A place full of beautiful color and a place that showed signs of growth and new life. “A place where our children … would be remembered.”

Smith and other parents of approached Lakota West Principal Elgin Card who quickly endorsed the idea.

Smith said they enlisted the help of a local landscaping company, who helped them design a “remembrance garden” to memorialize the school’s deceased teens.

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The garden will be outside Card’s office window, in a small but highly visible, grassy area along the front, southwest corner of Lakota West High School.

“Our remembrance garden will be located in the open area to the right of our main entrance,” said Card. “This is right outside my office window, so every time I look out I will think of the strength of these young people and their families.”

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“Our hope is this will be a place for families and friends to visit and remember all the positive times they had with their loved ones,” he said.

Smith and other supporters of the project hope to raise $14,000 for the "Lakota West High School Remembrance Garden" through a Go Fund Me internet site.

The garden will serve multiple purposes, she said.

“This garden will not only help keep our kids memories alive but it will be a space that students can gather to share laughter, talk about whats happening in their lives,” said Smith. “And maybe even help start conversations about something that will happen to all of us at some point and time - death.”

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