Eric Flack with Heather Robinson, a mother who purchased a brick
Barbara Karrer, the founder of Grieving Mothers
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A project to help grieving mothers cope is clouded in questions. The mothers paid for bricks to be placed in a new memorial garden at Kosair Charities, but more than a year later there's no garden, no bricks and some mothers say, no answers about what happened to all the money.
Heather Robinson keeps a scrapbook to honor her still born daughter Zarah, who died on December 8, 2011.
"When I lost her it was the most traumatic and devastating thing," Robinson said.
Zarah is remembered through pictures of her name in the sand and a spot in a memorial garden to comfort mothers who lost children.
"This was the page that announced the brick had been purchased," Robinson said as she pointed to the letter given to her by her friends on Zarah's actual due date.
The brick was purchased from a Louisville group called Grieving Mothers. Founder Barbara Karrer, who's own son died 26 years ago when he was hit by a car crossing the street, said she started the project to bring comfort to parents going through what she did.
"I wanted something to grow and for our children name to be carried on," Karrer said.
Those children's names are to be etched on bricks that Karrer is selling for about $60 each. The money raised will pay for the purchase of the bricks and construction of the garden. Karrer spread the word through the Grieving Mothers Facebook page and orders came in from hundreds of miles away.
Sandra Barlow sent her payment from Charlotte, North Carolina for a brick to honor her son Justin.
"After looking into it and seeing the news clip on it and reading the website, I decided I was going to do it," Barlow said.
She planned to visit the memorial garden when it was finally built on the campus of Kosair Charities after the group donated the land.
There was a ground breaking in the fall of 2011, but 14 months later no holes have been dug, no bricks have been laid, no flowers planted. Even Kosair Charities President Randy Coe doesn't know why.
Coe said Kosair Charities has been getting calls from mothers who bought bricks asking what's going on.
"They ask about the status, if we know anything about the garden, if anything has been done," Coe said. "And we explain to them carefully that we're not directly involved and have no direct knowledge and refer them onto the Grieving Mothers group here in town."
Barlow placed her order in December 2011.
"I trusted you to do something in memory of my son so you should do that," Barlow said, explaining her frustration.
Robinson's friends paid for her brick in May 2012. So the women took to the Grieving Mothers Facebook page to complain about the delays in getting the garden built.
"What is the status of the bricks, what is the brick count, when will the bricks be ordered?" are among the questions Robinson said she posted. "And time and time again my questions are never answered."
So Robinson asked the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Department to get answers. And Karrer agreed to sit down and explain what happened.
"I didn't have any plans, didn't know how to go about it," she said.
Karrer said she needed to sell around 250 bricks to raise enough money to build the memorial garden. She's only sold 56. She produced a bank account statement to prove the $3,500 collected hasn't been touched. And she also had a landscaping estimate showing the money she has raised still less than half of what she needs to complete the project.
Karrer now says, she got in over her head.
"It snow balled on me," she said. "I had no idea."
Karrer said she's now refunding Robinson and Barlow's money.
"I'd rather just have my money back and order a brick myself," Robinson said.
Karrer is also working with the landscaper to build the project in phases, using the money she has raised to get started. She says she still hopes to complete the memorial garden, despite the fact it has only added to some mothers grief.
"Something so little as a brick, it actually means a lot," Barlow said. "And I'm sure it does for other mothers."
Karrer said she's tried to raise money privately to fund the garden, but donors have been reluctant. In large part because the IRS has not approved Grieving Mothers non profit status meaning right now, donations are not tax deductible.
To view the Grieving Mothers face book page, click here.
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