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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2017 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


 

November 3, 2017  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Garden keeps Hillel student’s memory alive

By THAIS LEON-MILLER Jewish Press


Rachel’s Garden was formally dedicated last month on the Hillel Academy campus in north Tampa. The certified butterfly garden was created in memory of Rachel Hatfield, right, an 11-year-old student who died of cancer a year ago. Rachel’s Garden was formally dedicated last month on the Hillel Academy campus in north Tampa. The certified butterfly garden was created in memory of Rachel Hatfield, right, an 11-year-old student who died of cancer a year ago. Rachel Hatfield loved mermaids, butterflies and the color purple.

All three of her favorite things were incorporated into a ceremony dedicating a garden at Hillel Academy in Tampa in memory of the 11-year-old who lost her 16-month battle with glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, in November 2016.

The germination of the idea for the garden began in February when parents Yael and Henry Hatfield planted a tree for Tu B’Shevat on the Hillel Academy grounds in memory of Rachel.

Since the summer, they have not stopped adding to the patch of land, which has become a de-facto memorial for their daughter. Two gazebos, a faux wishing well and two ivy-covered arches now adorn the spot, erected next to where school children eat lunch and play during recess.

“They were here almost every day,” said interim Head of School Gordon Rode. “The walkway they added themselves, the pagoda too. They worked almost every day, working around Henry’s schedule.”

The Hatfields decided to make the new area a certified butterfly garden, recruiting the help of Lois Webber, the self-proclaimed “butterfly lady” from Tarpon Springs. They learned which plants attract, feed and support butterflies.

Henry Hatfield said they bought plants from Webber, and sent pictures to the University of Florida to get the official butterfly garden designation. The certification now rests on the roof of the faux wishing well, next to the lending library they placed to the right of it, which is registered with the Little Free Library organization.


Yael and Henry Hatfield and 13-year-old son Nevin at a recent Tampa Community Leadership Awards ceremony where they received the Hillel Academy’s Outstanding Service Award for their efforts o develop Rachel’s Garden. Yael and Henry Hatfield and 13-year-old son Nevin at a recent Tampa Community Leadership Awards ceremony where they received the Hillel Academy’s Outstanding Service Award for their efforts o develop Rachel’s Garden. Hillel Academy Class of 2020 students, friends and family came to help plant trees and set up a walkway with stones in the shape of footprints that lead between a row of generational totems created by students on Grandparents’ Day this year.

“They wanted a place where the kids could congregate that wasn’t a “memorial,” said Rode.

As Yael Hatfield stood in front of an audience of close to 150 friends and family at the formal dedication of the garden, her 13-year-old son Nevin handed her a tissue.

She laughed when she said that she had promised herself she wasn’t going to cry, while wiping tears off of her face. Henry stood beside her and rubbed her back as she spoke. She thanked everyone for coming out to celebrate “Rachel and her legacy,” and asked children to add to or take away anything they wanted from the new garden.


The extrance to the walkway of Rachel’s Garden, lined with generational totems and stone footprints The extrance to the walkway of Rachel’s Garden, lined with generational totems and stone footprints One of those in attendance was David Cain, a student in Rachel’s class. “She was always really kind and tried to do stuff for other people,” he said.

“She was like a little Buddha,” said family friend and Hillel parent Shana Levine. “She always wanted to do for others and her brother. She was very peaceful. Every day Yael came [to work on the garden], she would take pictures of the butterflies. It was as if Rachel was sending a message.”

The Hatfields created purple bracelets with a butterfly and a mermaid printed on it to hand out. They also had plastic cards printed with a list of activities people could do in honor of their daughter.


Shana Levine examines painted rocks at the entrance or Rachel’s Garden. Shana Levine examines painted rocks at the entrance or Rachel’s Garden. “The cards are her favorite things to do,” said Yael, challenging everyone present to do them as well. Among the 11 activities were baking cookies for police and donating toys to a children’s hospital.

Although the garden is named for Rachel, “she was not the kind of person that would want her name on something,” her mom said.

Rachel’s selflessness even came out in her Make- A-Wish dream. “She chose to have a party at her school with her friends. She specifically wanted it during school hours because she thought if it were later, some kids might not be able to make it. She wanted there to be dancing and food,” Yael said.

The garden will remain at Hillel as a constant reminder of their fun-loving classmate and friend. “It’s a nice, peaceful place for the kids to come to and bring the classroom outside,” said Hillel teacher Lisa Caine.


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