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Mound community raising money to build Eli Hart Memorial Playground

Mound community raising money to build Eli Hart Memorial Playground
Mound community raising money to build Eli Hart Memorial Playground 02:22

MOUND, Minn. – A group of nearly 200 people are on a mission to raise $200,000 to build a playground in honor of Eli Hart at Surfside Park in Mound.

In May, 6-year-old Hart was found in the trunk of his mother Julissa Thaler's car after being shot and killed. Thaler was later arrested and charged with the crime.

"It just made everyone sick to their stomach. It was just so sad. It hit me, every once in a while it'll still hit me," said Jen Houghton, an organizer of the 'Eli Hart Memorial Playground' fund.

The group kickstarted their effort during Saturday's Spirit of the Lakes celebration by selling homemade bracelets, along with T-Shirts and wristbands donated by the local Lion's Club.

"We just thought we needed to do something," Houghton said. "Everyone's just willing to help and donate their time, money and everything just to make this work."

Houghton and others marched during the event's parade Saturday morning before opening a booth at the park to raise funds and awareness.

The idea started after a community meeting where Houghton and others expressed their desire for a permanent fixture to the city. That's when the idea of replacing the playground at Surfside came into play.

"This is the place that would have the greatest impact across our community," said City Manager Eric Hoversten. "When you can create an amenity, when you can create an opportunity for some healing and make improvements all in one activity, it really doesn't get any better than that."

If the group can raise the necessary funds, construction on the playground could start as early as 2023.

In addition to selling merchandise at Saturday's event, the group is taking online donations through the GoFundMe page "Build an Eli Hart Memorial Playground At Surfside"

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