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Group hopes to build park in Ga. toddler's memory
W Unattended Child Deat Heal
Cobb County police investigate an SUV in which 22-month-old Cooper Harris died near Marietta, Ga., when his father forgot to drop him off at day care and went to work in this June 18 file photo. - photo by The Associated Press

    MARIETTA, Ga. — People across the country who want to memorialize the late 22-month-old Cooper Harris have created a fundraising campaign online to build a park in his memory.
    Harris died after being left in his father's car for seven hours on June 18.
    His father, Justin Ross Harris, 33, of Marietta, is charged with murder and child cruelty. He was denied bond and has been in the Cobb County jail since June 18.
    Spectators interested in advocating for child safety created the group called Cooper's Tree House Foundation.
    Roxs Bourgeois of White City, Oregon, a core member of the group who works for Macy's, said she wants to raise money to build a park in Cooper's name to remember the child.
    The 275-member group has raised $780 of its $250,000 goal since the fundraiser was created on July 19. They hope to build the park in Marietta or in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Harris is a native of Tuscaloosa and moved to Georgia in 2012 to work for Home Depot.
    Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin said parks can cost anywhere from $60,000, such as Blackwell Park, to $4 million, such as the Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center.
    He said he recognizes people may want to support the cause because "this is still a very emotional time," but he said parks in the city must meet certain standards.
    "To build a park, it takes a lot more debate and time to do it than you think," Tumlin said. "We have to meet standards: Does it have a bathroom? If it's down a hill, does it have to be handicap accessible?"
    All these issues are things the organizers will have to consider, he said.
    Bourgeois said the group is still in the early stages of planning and is focusing on the symbolism of the park.
    "We all wish that we could have been there that day to save him from the horrible death that baby Cooper had suffered," she said. "We are moms and couldn't imagine anything like that happening to any of our children."
    One mother, Amy Kirby of West Hartford, Connecticut, said she felt especially connected to Cooper Harris.
    "I have a son, Joseph, who is 3 years old, and he has blond hair and blue eyes just like Cooper," the website administrator said. "From the moment that I saw Cooper's picture, it touched me. I cried every day for a month. I don't know what was wrong with me."
    Kirby said she got involved with the group of online supporters of Cooper so she could feel like she was doing something to help the cause.
    "We wanted to take the memories of this really devastating thing and now make that park a spot where every time they pass it, they think of Cooper," Kirby said.
    Bourgeois said the group wants a park in Marietta, and when it raises more money, it will begin making plans for it.
    "The park truly does represent a place that represents things baby Cooper didn't have that day, (such as) trees for shade," she said. "We also have the tree as a symbol for life — the branches are like arms giving him a hug and protecting him."
    Bourgeois said the group created a slogan for the park: "Come play in the shade of Cooper's tree."
    The group is open to anyone who was touched emotionally by Cooper Harris' life, Bourgeois said.
    "We invite people we know that ... need to be uplifted in this horrible tragedy and spread information to one another," she said.
    Kirby said the group also wants to put parks in other locations across the country.
    "This shows the power of the world we live in," she said. "I think it's wonderful how much Cooper touched all of us."
    The group also is working on a campaign to produce and market products people can put in their cars that will remind them not to forget their children there, such as air fresheners and key chains that hang from car rearview mirrors.
    "Children being left in cars is such a careless action. We are also working on bringing awareness to this issue as well," Bourgeois said.
    Bourgeois said anyone can donate to the fund online, and she encourages people who felt connected to Cooper Harris' death to use it as a way to pay tribute to him.
    "We want to help people have an outlet for their sorrow," she said. "A beautiful park with children playing and having fun is such an uplifting thought, and because we are building each one with things that baby Cooper would love to play on, it creates a great image in our hearts and minds."

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