For Those Who Didn’t Know
Posted by: Steve Hardwick
Date: Jun 02 2018 8:56 AM
There are many still in the Wiregrass area who aren’t familiar with the Angel Of Hope and what it’s all about. So I’m attaching an article from Nov 2016 that was written about it
Written by Jimmy Sailors
The Dothan Eagle
Steve Hardwick learned about loss when he was a teenager.
His best friend was Gordy Hardy. They went to Young Junior High School together, and Hardy was working at Doug Tew Recreation Center the summer after they finished ninth grade.
Hardwick went by the center one night and the two planned to ride bicycles the next day after Hardy got back from fishing.
“And that never happened,” Hardwick said. “Gordy died, drowned on that fishing trip.”
It was Hardwick’s first experience dealing with death, and on Sunday afternoon he helped open a place for all people who have lost someone.
An “Angel of Hope” was dedicated at Dothan’s Westgate Park.
Hardwick spearheaded the local project, organizing the effort to raise money to pay for the statue based on “The Christmas Box,” a bestselling book and television movie by author Richard Paul Evans.
In the book a woman mourns the loss of her child at the base of an angel monument. Evans commissioned a statue modeled after the description in the book and dedicated it in late 1994 at a cemetery in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The statue became so well-known as a place to grieve, heal and remember that other cities wanted their own. The Dothan statue was the 136 th to be erected in the United States, Canada and Japan.
Hardwick said the statue is for every parent who lost a child, for every sibling who lost a brother or sister, for every grandparent who lost a grandchild, and for every friend who lost a friend.
Lisa Johnson, Christmas Box Angel Foundation director, said the process from request to completion has never gone so quickly as it did with Dothan.
Hardwick came up with the idea in August after seeing how the deaths of local people devastated families and friends.
He got in touch with Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz and they got the ball rolling.
Hardwick wanted the memorial to be near where children and others congregate. The city commission worked with the Department of Leisure Services and others and they settled on a location at the park, between Miracle Field, the tennis complex, the library and the recreation center.
Schmitz said he was privileged to be part of Sunday’s ceremony “to celebrate our children that we’ve lost, no matter what their age, the circumstances, how long it’s been.”
The mayor said although “we may not understand your grief or your pain that you’ve been through, we do love you and we are proud to be here today to give you hopefully a little comfort and show you you have a community that cares about you and cares about your family, your children and your lives.”
Schmitz commended Hardwick for starting the project and getting so many people involved, from those who contributed to the cause to others who helped provide the base, walkway, landscaping and fence.
“I’m really proud to be part of a community where one person can make a difference,” Schmitz said.
The memorial is a place where anyone can come to remember a lost loved one. Hardwick said a candlelight vigil will be held at the site every year on Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. to honor those who have been lost.
During the ceremony, the Friends Choir sang “Amazing Grace” and “Angels Among Us.” Jane Royal Saliba read a poem she wrote for the statue called “Band of Angels.”
There’s a band of angels who watch from above,
Keeping an eye on the ones they love.
Each of them gained their wings too soon,
And left behind an empty room.
After many lines that talk about the pain of losing a child and needing a place to remember and share the loss with others, it concludes:
So let this angel bring us hope,
Give us comfort and help us cope.
And let our grief and our despair,
Lessen knowing we can share…
While round this angel hand in hand,
We remember our children of the angel band