Summer of YES!

In the summers before we lost the girls, I made a commitment to myself and to them that I would say YES to more things. You see while I’m already a pretty “free range” mom I found myself saying NO a lot more than I wanted to once the girls entered public school. It was a lot of simple stuff too it caused a bunch of unnecessary back and forth bartering and a few regrets.

I remembering having amazing summers full of adventure, lots of smiles, laughs, doing things that may have been a little outside my comfort zone, like jumping in somewhat gross puddles like above. When I look back I don’t regret one single YES. It was perfection.

I do have some regret for the NOs. Once the school year started I went back to NO. Simple things like “No, I don’t think I should paint your nails before you go to bed because they’ll smudge” Had I taken the time it would have been the last chance I had to paint their nails. It would have just take an extra 10 minutes but in my head at the time it was bed time and painting their nails meant staying up late… looking back those 10 minutes more would have been such a blessing.

It’s not really about being permissive as a parent but rather choosing the simple things that will bring joy to your kids and family, encouraging curiosity and making sure your kids know it’s always ok to ask. Stopping to play in the rain may not be feasible on the way into the Dr but going to find puddles when you’re on your way home, totally doable! Ice cream for breakfast may not be a great idea ~ but making banana ice cream and breakfast cookies ~ doable, and your kids will look at you like a super hero! Staying up a few extra minutes to read another book, singing one more song or going out to catch the fireflies. Each of those easy YES moments are memories being made.

There’s more to saying YES than just the joy and memory aspect too! Yes is more than a word, it’s a state of being, of relating. A gateway to curiosity, growth, and resilience, according to internationally recognized educator, neuropsychiatrist, and bestselling author Dr. Dan Siegel

I challenge you to focus on the easy YES with your kids (and your spouse) all year long. When you look back those moments you decided to YES instead of NO, I promise you will cherish each of them.

The summer of YES!.jpg

One step closer!

Tonight the City of Frederick Mayor and Board of Alderman unanimously approved the legal document that will take our vision for Sophie & Madigan Lillard Memorial Playground into reality. We officially are moving forward! We have a home! So many people to be thankful for including all of you who have followed us this far! The big fun is finally here!

This means is that over the next few months (think fall) you will be seeing our park access road, parking lots and some signage going it for the future home of Sophie and Madigan Lillard Memorial Playground! There will be a ramp up in our request for volunteers of every ability. Now that we have a location budget and time line we can work on grants in kind and corporate donation requests and of course the fun of a community build! If you’ve been wondering how to get involved we will put your skills to work! We will have a “Ground Breaking” and “Ribbon Cutting” on Phase all coming very soon!

We thought all along it would fall on a date that was special for us. The girls were 3 and 6… it’s been such a long time and it’s not always been fun or easy trying to “stay the course” the girls just wanted us to wait for this amazing location opportunity in the West Side Regional Park system! So year 6 it is. We love you sweet girls and miss you to the moon! Thanks for keeping our hearts moving in the right direction!

Peace Garden Rededication for Sophie and Madigan

In 2012 Sophie, Madigan, and Morgan were Accepted to Carroll Creek Montessori School through their lottery process. We were so excited for the opportunity- we work hard to help get the school opened. Sophie and Morgan worked with their grandmother building shelves Madigan, Sadie and I worked in child care so other parents could volunteer. The girls, all three of them loved their school. When the girls passed away the school worked to create a peace garden to honor Sophie. It was such a weekend and beautiful gesture but it was hard that Madigan wasn’t included. This year the schools Junior Girl Scouts decided they wanted to help bring the peace garden back to the beautiful state it began and they choose to honor Madigan by adding a stone for her as well. We feel so blessed to have this space honoring the girls in a place that meant so much to them. Yesterday the Junior Girl Scouts held a dedication ceremony.

In Blessing of the Peace Garden

June 13th, 2018

Kristine – Welcome
We want to welcome and thank you for attending the blessing of Carroll Creek Montessori Public Charter School’s Peace Garden in memory of Sophie and Madigan Lillard. The Peace Garden was created in 2013 to memorialize Sophie and Madigan Lillard.  Sophie was a student at the school and her sister Madigan would have attended in the fall of 2013.

To start, we would like to give you a little background about this project and explain how we started.  The Girl Scout Juniors decided to earn their Bronze Award this year, which is the highest award a Junior may achieve.  This award challenges the Juniors to explore their community, choose a project, make a plan and put that plan into motion.  Back in January, the Juniors walked around the school taking a look at the community and looking for what they could do to help and improve their school.  The girls all expressed a love and appreciation for the Peace Garden and were sad that it had fallen into some disrepair.  They then decided to take on its restoration.

To begin this project, we asked the Lillard family for more information about Sophie and Madigan, so we could incorporate their interests and things that they liked into the garden.  We also researched the meanings of plants and brought those into the garden to allow the garden to tell its story.

We then brought these ideas to Analiese Kennedy who was able to use her talent and skill as a Master Gardener to bring this project together.

Analiese – Design Objectives for the peace garden are:

• To dedicate, maintain and nurture the peace garden as a symbol of hope for the future and

o our school’s commitment to peace – peace within ourselves and our school community,

o peace within the global family and peace with nature.

• Respect and promote peace by example.

• Use our Peace Garden for celebrations of peace and the environment, and in appreciation

o of the rich cultural heritage of the students and faculty of our school, and our community.

• Welcome and share our place of peace with other members of our community.

[Analiese]  In order to achieve these objectives, I incorporated the following as Elements of Design:

• Path of Peace

• Path of Discovery

o Hidden along the Path of Discovery is the Fairy Garden (Promotes the memory and energy of all the Lillard children)

• Peace Tree

o Nestled along the Path of Peace is the Peace tree (weeping willow cherry)

• Friendship Bench

[Kristine] Tour of the Garden
Now, the Girl Scout Juniors would like to give you a tour of the garden:

[Keira] The Plants
Sophie and Madigan liked blue and pink and the garden was based on a pink, purple and blue theme.  Sophie’s favorite flower was blue and pink morning glories.  We have planted seeds along the fence and these morning glories will begin to climb and flower on this fence.  Morning glories represent “affection” and show the love the school had for the girls.

Madigan loved peonies and watching the ants open the buds to big, huge blooms.  In the fall, peonies will be transplanted around the tree and the plaques. Peonies represent “a happy life”, which Sophie and Madigan very much had.

We also picked out blue salvia, which means “I Think of You” and rosemary for “Remembrance”.  There will be arborvitae planted along the back edge of the garden later this summer.  They will represent “Unchanging Friendship”.  The daisies sprinkled throughout the garden represent “Hope and Innocence”.   The butterfly bushes also remain and were one of the girls’ favorites.

[Lauren] The Tree
Mrs. Lillard wrote us this remembrance, “Our yard had a huge 20-year-old Kwanzan flowering cherry tree.  It would start every spring as this huge pink fluff ball with pink snow gently falling.  The leaves would start as green in the spring and turn a brilliant sherbet orange in the fall. We had a hammock and a small slide under the branches. The girls loved to play under the shade of the tree and enjoyed all of the beautiful colors the tree brought to our yard throughout the year.”

We wanted to put in something similar in the garden.  This new tree, a Weeping Willow Cherry tree represents both “Peace and sadness but with an abundance of new beginnings and possibilities renewed”.  This is a focal point of our garden that you will see as you sit on the bench.  The plaques for Sophie and Madigan rest under this tree.

[Gaby] The Plaques
A plaque has been added for Madigan Lillard under the Weeping Willow Cherry Tree to match her sister Sophie’s plaque.

[Gaby] The Bench
The girls loved lady bugs and butterflies and enjoyed wild flowers like buttercups, violets, and dandelions.  This new bench was colored with one of the girls’ favorite colors and imprinted on the sides with these creatures and flowers that they enjoyed.  The bench faces the tree and the memorial plaques so that visitors may have an opportunity to sit in peace and enjoy the garden.

[Janessa] The Peace Rocks
The rocks along the paths and under the bench have been painted with colorful messages from the Compassionate Kids Club, the Girl Scouts and students at the school.  The messages on the stones are ones of peace, hope and kindness.

[Janessa] The Fairy Houses
The girls loved to build fairy houses, so we have picked out five fairy houses to add to the garden.  These five houses represent the girls and their siblings.

[Ava] The Garden
The garden was created as a space for remembrance and peace.  It was lovingly cared for by the girls’ grandmother for many years.  We hope that these changes and additions provide the family and school with a space of remembrance and peace to be able to pause, reflect, and relax.

Donors & Thank Yous
We would like to thank the donors who made this possible.  We would not have been able to complete this restoration without these generous donations:

[Girls Take Turns] First, we would like to thank the Lillard family for giving us their blessing and guidance on this project.

We’d like to thank Mr. Tom Kohlhepp at Lough Memorials for the new memorial plaque for Madigan.  This helps us to complete the garden and honor Madigan.

We’d like to thank Jeff Creeger at Frederick Brickworks for his generous donation of nearly 500 pounds of river rocks.  These created the foundation for our bench and more importantly the messages of peace sprinkled throughout the garden.

We’d like to thank the businesses who gave us discounts or gift cards to complete pieces of the garden including Lowes and Potomac Garden Center.

We’d like to thank Compassionate Kids Club for helping us to plant the garden and decorate peace rocks.

We’d like to thank Erica at Rite Aid who generously donated the money for us to purchase fairy houses and honor the Lillard siblings in the garden with their own fairy village.

We’d like to thank the people who donated their time and talents including Colleen Porter and the Garden Club, who helped us clean-up the garden.

Paul Harbison who came and helped us measure the soil and figure out where we needed to add soil.

Vicki Quist who helped make the baked goods for our yard sales.

Kelli McIntosh, Vicki Quist, Albert Price and Desiree Mortenson who helped us to run our yard sales to raise money.

Scott McIntosh who cut down the tree.

Desiree Mortensen who wrote two grants.

And, Michael Beth Edwards who helped find and donate plants to the garden.

We’d like to thank our parents who had to get up really early on weekends to drive us to yard sales, who had to help us with our research, take us to endless meetings and help out at odd times.

We’d like to thank Kylee Farrell for sitting through lots of meetings and helping us.

We’d like to thank Steven Eyler who very generously designed and created this gorgeous new bench that has become a focal point of the garden.

Finally, we would like to give a huge thank you to Analiese Kennedy who came up with a new design for the garden that added the new plants and trees.  For helping us to learn about gardening and teaching us what is a weed and what is a plant.  For showing us how to prune and being patient.  And most importantly, for having endless enthusiasm and a positive outlook on what we could accomplish.

[Lillard Family] Placing of the Fairy Houses
At this time, we would like to have the Lillards each take a fairy house and place them in the garden.  These houses represent each of the Lillard children and will create a fairy village in the garden.

[Nicky Welzelberger] Blessing of the Garden

[Nicki speech]

Let us all join hands along the path of peace, circling around to bless this garden as a place of peace and friendship!

The Blessing

I offer you peace,

I offer you love,

I offer you friendship,

I hear your cry,

I see your beauty,

I feel your pain,

This caring flows from my spirit within,

I salute that spirit in you.

We dedicate this place of peace to the memory of Sophie and Madigan.

May their calm, gentle souls bless this place for the future generations of children that come here.

SaMP Kids Compassionate Kids Club – End of Year Party

Today we enjoyed our end of the year party by letting the kids run and play at the park! We gave out Community Service Awards (if your kiddo didn’t make it out today make sure you contact Chrissi to get their award) for all the hard work they put in this year!

We are so grateful for our parent and kid volunteers (and of course Mr Adam who volunteers his time after school every week to keep the kids entertained) and we could not be more proud of all of the hard work everyone put in this year. We love our SaMP Kids group and we’re a little sad to see it go for the summer, but we can’t wait to see everyone in again September! Have a great summer!

SaMP Kids is a free LEARN program thanks to the generosity of our donors and sponsors!

Happy 12th Birthday Sophie!

Happy Birthday! I cannot believe you are 12 years old today. We have officially seen as many birthdays with you gone as we have with you here. That reality is a very hard pill for me to swallow and it makes my mind race with all the things I wish I had done better. The heaviness of knowing that you’ve been gone as long as we were privileged to have you here makes me want curl up in the dark and never leave. Then I remember that I should celebrate YOU and the gifts that you give me!

We’ve had a very busy year. We’re closer than ever to building a destination park with all of your favorite things and all of the things that remind us of favorite memories with you. We shared your heart for giving by holding weekly compassionate kids clubs meetings and did some amazing community service projects. We brought music and fun to the families of children’s hospital. You and your sweet little sister made all of this possible, you remind families the importance of togetherness and the impact you have on our community is amazing. Thank you for giving my pain a place to be useful.

The last few weeks have been overwhelming ~ we had the opportunity to go through a storage unit full of things that were recovered from the fire that I didn’t realize were even there. It was so hard processing the things so badly damaged but maybe harder to process the items that looked as if they were untouched, my mind would race to remember where the item may have been in the house to have been left unscathed when you were ripped away from us. It was therapeutic though to have the opportunity to make decisions, one less thing out of our control. I did find a few gems some of your amazing artwork, a few pages from one of your flower field guides, and a welcome home note from you to me when we brought baby Sadie home. Such gifts that means the world to me!

I’ve mostly mastered hiding the crashing waves of emotions from friends and family, but I know that you see me struggle and I wish more than anything that I could take away that turmoil from you. I had been diligently using art therapy and I’m trying to reframe the emptiness I always feel. I want to learn to embrace that feeling as the love that I have for you. The ache is only there because I love you both so much. I know that even on the happiest day there will be tears, but if I can reframe those tears as the reflection of the love I have saved just for you and your sister I may be able to sit with them a little easier. My emotional barriers are built so high, it’s a process, I’m working very hard to soften those walls.

I imagine if you were here we’d be gearing up for an amazing birthday sleepover with your best friends. I’m sure you would have created some amazing flower arrangements for the tables and you would have picked out the perfect birthday outfit. We would be running out to get your favorite things for dinner and ordering cupcakes. We asked the SaMP Kids Club to celebrate your birthday today by doing acts of kindness. I don’t know exactly what this day will look like for me I thought about running away to the beach and sending you balloons…. It’s early I may still do that.

Happy 12th Birthday sweet Sophie.

Love you to the moon


We are so close! SaMP Park Project

Recently we met with the City of Frederick Parks and Rec Commission. The purpose of the meeting was to go over the legal documents (MOU) that will dictate who is responsible for what in regards to the Sophie and Madigan’s Playground Park Project at West Side Regional Park near Butterfly Lane. We’ve been working the the deputy director, and city engineer for several months pulling this together. Last night the meeting was short and oh so very sweet when the project was brought up the MOU was approved unanimously. Our next steps will finalize that approval. First we will sit with the Board of Alderman at their workshop on June 6th at 3pm. Then we will go in front of the Mayor for final approval. This should all happen quickly and it’s possible by that by the end of June we will be ready to hit the road running! We know that this has been such a long process and even we wondered if we would ever get to this point, but now we’re here! The time line should move very quickly with the park access road, the parking lots, and equipment pads for our park going in *this* fall. We are very excited to be here. There was a lot of “blood sweat and more than enough tears to get us here! We will be a part of the West Side Regional Park System where eventually there will be ball fields and proposed pools etc etc. We are grateful to the City for working with us to make this a reality ~ This Butterfly Lane location was the original location that we asked about when we sat down with the city in 2013! We still have work to do but we are closer than ever to building this amazing destination park that will benefit our community and honor our sweet Sophie and Madigan.

Celebrate PLAY





celebratePLAY logo

Yesterday we hosted our 2nd Celebrate PLAY event at Children’s National Medical Center. We handed out over 300 free superhero SaMP capes and gave countless kids/parents in the hospital a chance to leave all the hurts and worries behind to PLAY and create memories together. This year were were fortunate enough to have Imagination Movers come out and the families loved every minute! Miss Libby (aka Mary Poppins) brought her bag of amazing crafts, and our friend Meredith sent books to give away from Books in the Barn!

I stood by the elevators to hand out capes as many families weren’t able to stop and enjoy the concert and crafts and I wanted them to be touched by my girls and their beautiful spirits as much as I could. For a Saturday the hospital was busy everyone from ER patients, to clinic kids and in patient families. I watched one little girl shyly slink off of the elevator and saw her face light up when she heard the music, she turned to her mom now bouncing and asked, “Mom, is this the doctor? This is fun!” After they got checked in her mom came over to tell me how worried her daughter had been and thanked me for changing their whole day from one of scary doctors to a place filled with joy. I cried with a grandmother who’s grandchild had been brought to the hospital not breathing but who the doctors were able to save from the brink, she shared how grateful she was to hear the music and see the happy kids and thanked us for the cape for her granchild who was an absolute superhero. I stood with a dad and listened about his son in hospice care and how he was just so glad we were there to help fill the long hard days.  I gave capes and stickers to charge nurses and social workers who thanked us for helping to make their jobs easier…because a small gift can go a long way to help them do their job with a scared kid.

It was such an amazing day filled with so many emotions and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for all of our sponsors and donors for allowing us the opportunity to bring amazing programs like Celebrate PLAY to the kids at Children’s National Medical Center! Without your donations, without your dedication to our organization and our mission we could not hold amazing events like this one. Such an amazing feeling to watch these families make memories with their babies – to watch their kids play and not worry even if it’s just a few minutes out of their day. There’s absolutely nothing I would have rather been doing to do to honor my girls.

**Celebrate PLAY is a free PLAY event thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Sophie and Madigan’s Playground strives to keep the memory of the Sophie and Madigan Lillard alive by providing opportunities for families to PLAY LEARN and CREATE together in ways that reflect the girls personalities.**








Samp Kids – Coco Prep!

We are just a week from our special showing of Coco presented by SaMP Kids! Please make sure to mark your calendar and come out for this special event all proceeds will benefit a Wish Kid with Make-A-Wish Mid- Atlantic

Date: Tuesday May 1st

Time: 5:00pm

Where: MDL Holiday Cinemas

What: Coco Presented by SaMP Kids Compassionate Kids Club!

Tickets are $10 for adult $5 for kids under 5 we will also have special goodie bags with hand decorated sugar skull cookies and with the chance to win our Coco themed grand prize!

The kids have been hard at work getting ready for our special showing of Coco to benefit Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic! This week we decorated sugar skulls and stuffed goodie bags for the show!

Next Monday 4/30 at 4:30 at the Clarion Inn we will be decorating the sugar cookies and finishing up our bags – I’ll also be accepting preorder for the show. We can not wait to see you all there!

SaMP Kids – Compassionate Kids Club is a weekly group focused on compassion and community service. Kids of all ages will come together to choose a service based project that will help teach them the importance of compassion for others and how their service big and small can make a difference in our community. SaMP Kids is a free LEARN program thanks to the generosity of Sophie and Madigan’s Playground donors, and supporters. Big thank you to our friends at the Clarion Inn in Frederick MD for hosting our weekly meetings free of charge!