Over three years after the horrific murder of Nathan O’Brien and his grandparents, Nathan’s parents are still being parents to Nathan as best they can.
Rod and Jennifer created the Nathan O’Brien Children’s Foundation in memory of their slain son and put the finishing touches on Nathan’s Playground on Friday.
Nathan’s Playground was built as a memorial to Nathan, something that Rod describes as a way to be parents to Nathan’s spirit and to continue his legacy.
With the help of family, friends and some Calgary-based corporations, the O’Briens raised around $54,000 for the playground since December 2016.
Nathan’s Playground is at the EvenStart Child Development Centre in Mayland Heights. Family members say it’s a way for them to give back to the Calgary community.
The EvenStart Centre is for children who have backgrounds of trauma and have been disadvantaged while growing up. The O’Briens hope to help children who do not have the advantages that Nathan had.
“We’ve had a lot of support over the last three years and we’ve worked with a lot of good people to channel that support into something tangible, and helping children is what we’ve chosen to do,” Rod said.
Nathan’s Playground is a half indoor and half outdoor playground and also includes Nathan’s Garden. These features will be fully available to the kids at EvenStart to help them learn and develop at the same rate as kids their own age.
The O’Brien family also thought a playground would be appropriate due to Nathan’s love of playgrounds.
“I remember just spending hours with him at playgrounds when he just learned how to climb on a rope or swing from a rope at the zoo,” Jennifer said.
“Monkey bars were his favourite… so I think that this would be right up his alley and he would be extremely excited to know this was happening.”
The process has provided some healing for the O’Brien family, giving them hope for the future, but also allowing them to celebrate their son.
“It’s a really exciting day,” Jennifer said.
“We’re just keeping Nathan’s spirit alive here and it’s emotional, but it’s a beautiful thing.”
On Sept. 9, 2017, EvenStart will be hosting a barbecue open to the public to celebrate the official opening of Nathan’s Playground.