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Playground memorial project reaches goal

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A view of the proposed "A Safe Place for Seth" playground, which met its fundraising goal Friday.

A tragedy in February brought a community together for a way to keep children safe while they play.

"A Safe Place for Seth" met its $12,000 fundraising goal Friday, thanks to the joint efforts of the Country Village Estates community and the Rapid City Fire Department. The money will go toward a playground set in the mobile home park in memory of 2-year-old Seth Brien.

Brien and his 3-year-old sister were struck by a pickup truck on Feb. 25. Though his sister survived, he did not.

In response, community resident Sonya Harrison launched a GoFundMe page to get the community a 900-square-foot playground set with a 2-bay swing set, four slides, a park bench, an asphalt basketball court and climbing areas for children to play safely.

Another fund was set up through Black Hills Federal Credit Union, and soon church groups and in-person donations also started bringing the effort toward its goal. On Thursday, when it was determined it was just under $2,500 short of its goal, the Rapid City Fire Department got further involved, putting out a press release that brought in a sizable donation.

"We wanted to do something to keep this going forward," said department spokesman Lt. Jim Bussell. "And after that donation, the Professional Firefighers IAFF Local 1040 union put up the remaining $1,350 out of union dues and the firefighters' pockets."

Bussell said that Brien's death had struck a chord with the firefighters, particularly the shift crew at Station 7 that acted as the first responders.

"Our profession involves responding to the worst day of someone's life, and any time we have an incident that deals with children, there's an emotional response," Bussell said.

He added: "This is an opportunity for our firefighters to have an impact in a positive way that doesn't involve somebody's bad day. That's a big deal for them."

Bussell said that the RCFD was excited to see the project completed, with a targeted date by Sept. 1 for the United Way Day of Caring.

"The way the community pulled together to make this happen is huge," Bussell said. "Thank you doesn't seem like it's enough, but the best we can do is say 'thank you.' "

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