Wynne Park memorializes child's life

WYNNE, AR (KAIT) - John-Hayden Smith was only 2 years old when he passed away. But, a small park in Wynne will be an everlasting tribute to his memory and his short life.

John-Hayden's name has a dash in the middle. That dash is what makes this place so important.

John-Hayden's parents April and Johnny Smith have built the park on purchased and donated land and they have paid for nearly every bit of durable, colorful equipment at the park. Smith says building the park serves twofold.

Smith, "This is how we still give to him now even though he's not here. It's our way of doing it . It helps us heal more than I guess, anyone else."

I sat at a picnic table with the Smiths. It had just stopped raining a few minutes before we arrived but children were already coming back to play. "This place is always busy." April told me. Johnny agreed, "There are a lot of birthday parties and regular parties held here, it's very popular." Smith assembled and installed all the equipment, he casts his eye on the grounds, not satisfied with the way it looked for us being there.

April showed me several pictures of their son who would have turned 15 last week. They show a happy blonde-headed boy with bright blue eyes. My favorite picture was of John-Hayden clad in denim sitting at his fathers knee.

John-Hayden Smith was 2 when he was killed in an accident in 1999. His parents April and Johnny Smith were already considering a park for the city before John-Hayden died.

"Almost immediately at the time of his death it became important to us to memorialize him and create a memory that would last forever." April said with a small catch in her voice. "It took a while to build." Johnny said, "We had playground equipment in our yard for a year or so as we gathered and saved money to assemble the playground."

April told me that there is a memorial fund set up and they do get donations, often from seniors who no longer have young children or just random receipts in the mail. "We'll get a notice in the mail that someone just dropped by and made a donation to the park cause they want it to continue." April said.

The Smiths believe in life they said that on a head stone everything we do in our lives becomes the dash from the day we are born till the day we die.

April, "John-Hayden's name ironically has a dash in it. A park is an opportunity for people to make memories, an opportunity for you to create your dash." John-Hayden's grandfather called him "Dash" because he was so busy all the time.

Around the park are benches invoking ideas such as "Be Happy" or "laugh a lot". Good places to be in this happy place remembering this happy child.

Would John-Hayden approve of his park, I asked?

"He'd probably be on top of it instead of inside it. He was pretty adventurous." Johnny said. "Or working on it." April Continues, "He liked to take things apart and put them together. He'd know how it worked for sure. Or how to put it together. I'm certain he would be pleased."

If you'd like to make a donation to help with the upkeep of the park, contact the Cross County Bank in Wynne at (870) 238-8171.

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