Youth Memorial to be a Place of Solace and Safety
December, 2005 - Issue #14
Artist's rendering of the Youth Memorial in Central Park.
It is meant to be a place of reflection and remembrance. A little corner surrounded by evergreens and tucked inside Central Park in Saugus will embrace a simple stone structure with small concrete trees. Each tree will be inscribed with the names of a young person with a Santa Clarita connection, killed in a traffic-related crash.

The Blue Ribbon Youth Memorial will be a place where the community can gather to remember these young victims and realize the consequences of drinking and reckless driving. The Central Park location is also meant to replace the roadside memorials that have popped up around the valley. Some of the deaths are hard to forget - the Renolds' brothers, the Saugus High School football players, a young couple on their way home from prom.

More than 50 names have been collected by the Youth Memorial Committee so far. They are all under 25 years old, killed in a car, by a car, or in some other traffic-related incident. The youngest on the list is 3 years of age.

"Every year young people are killed in traffic-related collisions," said Tess Simgen, community services analyst for the City of Santa Clarita. "The Youth Memorial will provide a safe place for our youth and the community to go and remember the young lives lost and raise awareness to help prevent future deaths."

The idea of a Youth Memorial came from Debbie Knight and her daughter Kathi Tabajdi. Both became members of the Blue Ribbon Task Force after their Saugus neighborhood was rocked with several deaths in a short period of time. Kathi lost six friends. Mother and daughter said it was time to take roadside memorials off the street. They also wanted to educate the community on the real consequences of reckless driving. They went to City Councilman and Saugus High Assistant Principal Frank Ferry with the idea.

The project was taken on by the City's Blue Ribbon Task Force, which is comprised of parents, educators, law enforcement, businesses, young people and city staff. The Task Force addresses issues related to the community's youth and promotes healthy and productive choices.

"I don't think [these deaths] are real to young people," Debbie Knight said. "With this memorial, it will be real. It's real people whose names they will be reading. Young people are vulnerable. Sometimes they go out there and make poor choices and sometimes it's the adults who make poor choices. This is something we all want to avoid happening to any more children."

Tom and Alice Renolds, also members of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, lost two sons in a crash six years ago. Tom and Alice held a candlelight vigil every year in memory of their sons and the two other victims of that car crash. It is a consuming event for the Renolds family. Alice said it's time to provide a place for all families to remember children who have passed on in a safe and serene surrounding.

"Some of the roadside memorials are in dangerous places and teens are in danger by just hanging out there," Alice said. "Candlelight walks are meant to be a night of remembrance. It would be tragic if anything happened during the vigils."

The committee spent several years raising funds for the memorial with car washes, a talent show and the sale of blue wrist bands that proclaim "kNOw more," to stand for know more about safe driving and no more deaths. It was important for everyone on the committee that young people be involved in every step of the process, including fundraising and design.

Knight believes the wrist bands have already saved a life when she heard about a young man who was wearing one and convinced an inebriated stranger to not drive in exchange for the band.

"That one act could have saved two or three lives," she said.

While the committee gathered the funds and approved the design, it was the community who stepped forward and generously donated their time and materials to make the Youth Memorial a reality. A groundbreaking ceremony will be held with construction to be complete by the beginning of the new year.

"Nobody can take the pain away from the families who have suffered a loss," Knight said. "My children were victims too, because they lost friends. They all need some way to deal with their sorrow."

Names are still being collected for the memorial. If you would like a name included or would like to contribute to the memorial, contact Tess Simgen at 255-4956.
- What is the sum of 9 + 8?
This is a required value
to protect against spam
community events