Updated 05/19/2012 05:37 PM
Zahra Baker All Children's Playground opens in Hickory
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HICKORY, N.C. – A Catawba County community is finally getting the closure they've been waiting for. The Zahra Baker All Children's Playground officially opened Saturday in Hickory.
It serves as the first playground where children of all needs can play together, and where the community can honor Baker, nearly two years since her murder.
"Oct. 9, 2010 will always be remembered by a group of dedicated law enforcement officers and civilian staff that coined themselves Team Zahra," said Hickory Police Chief, Tom Adkins, during a dedication ceremony.
Hickory city officials came together with residents to pay tribute to Zahra Baker, the 10-year-old murdered by her step-mother in 2010.
"As a family member said, she would not let anybody be sad around her, she wanted no pity, she just wanted to be like every other child," said Adkins.
And with the clip of a ribbon, the Zahra Baker All Children's Playground opened to every child no matter their disability.
"She just gets frustrated because there's nothing for her to do, she can't do anything," said Melissa Hicks of her 7-year-old daughter, Marissa Rose, who has brain damage.
Her wheelchair prevented her from her playground favorite, but not anymore.
"She likes to swing and we don't have any type of swing that she can get in," said Hicks.
Baker, herself, had a prosthetic leg and used hearing aids after surviving cancer twice.
Now the playground in her honor is putting smiles on the faces of children like her.
"It's nice being able to see her play with the other kids," said Hicks.
And for law enforcement officials who worked to bring justice for Zahra Baker, it was a final thank you.
"On behalf of Team Zahra, I would like to thank this community for all their support," said Adkins. "This will help bring closure to this case. As we go through life we'll always remember where we were on Oct. 9 2010."
That’s the day Zahara was reported missing. But now they'll remember this day when a tragedy turned into a gift for every child.
"This gives every child an opportunity to play no matter what challenge they face in life, because they want no pity, they just want to be like every other child," said Adkins.
The Hickory Kiwanis Club has raised about $200,000, more than double their initial $85,000 goal for the playground. You can still donate at playgroundforzahra.org.
Leftover money is going to the Zahra Baker Memorial Scholarship.