Published July 25, 2009|Updated July 27, 2009

Many bereaved Tampa Bay area families will soon have a place of solace to call their own, as city officials and organizers break ground today on the area's first Angel of Hope Memorial Garden.

The monument to lost children, complete with an angel statue and more than 200 engraved bricks, will be a part of the city's new Riverside Park on Riverhills Drive.

It took five years to get to this point, said Beverley Hurley, organizer of the Angel of Hope Memorial Garden of Tampa Bay and president of the Tampa Bay chapter of Bereaved Parents of the USA.

Hurley said she got the idea after visiting the Angel of Hope garden in St. Louis, where 1,000 people had gathered in a ceremony to remember someone they had lost.

"I just knew we had to have one in this area," she said.

Bereaved Parents partnered with AMEND, a pregnancy loss support group, to create a site-selection committee and generate community support for the project.

Hurley lost her daughter, Debbie, 18 years ago to "a painful, three-month battle with cancer." The 22-year-old had cancer in every organ, Hurley said.

Soon after, she joined Bereaved Parents and got involved with helping other grieving parents.

"You heal by helping others, and in turn they help others."

The Angel of Hope comes from the Richard Paul Evans book The Christmas Box, about a couple who lose their only child and erect an angel statue to remember the child. There are more than 70 memorial gardens nationwide.

Dozens of local and national companies and businesses have donated their services and cash to build the garden, and the city of Temple Terrace set aside a section of the half-acre park.

Hurley said the next step will be the official dedication on Oct. 4, after the garden is complete.

Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or

Fast facts

If you go

What: Free groundbreaking ceremony for the Angel of Hope Memorial Garden of Tampa Bay

When: 9:30 a.m. today

Where: Riverside Park on Riverhills Drive near 56th Street