During a ceremony at Coral Reef Park on Saturday, May 13, a refurbished playground with new equipment was formally dedicated to Bridget Allison Pier to honor her memory.
The ceremony was upbeat, reflecting the joy the seven year old girl gave others, and poignant, due to the sadness of her untimely loss.
Bridget, a Palmetto Bay resident and the daughter of Meighan Alexander, who served as the village clerk for many years, died unexpectedly in 2011 after suffering a massive stroke due to an undetected heart infection while on a family vacation in Hawaii.
With attendees wearing Hawaiian style leis provided by event organizers of the Parks & Recreation Department, the ceremony began with welcoming remarks by Village Mayor Eugene Flinn, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava and Village Seat 1 Councilmember Karyn Cunningham, who in 2016 sponsored the resolution to name the playground for Bridget.
That resolution was unanimously adopted by the council.
Commissioner Levine Cava expressed her thoughts.
“Whenever the unimaginable happens and a child is gone from this earth, we’re at a loss — what to say, what to do,” Levine Cava said. “But nothing is more important than remembering, and this is a way that we can all honor and give tribute whenever we come to this beautiful park, whenever we think about the other children playing here, and imagine this wonderful child who brought so much joy to her family and this community.”
Councilmember Cunningham, who sponsored the resolution and who hosted a Kids Town Hall to give youngsters a chance to pick their own playground equipment, spoke about the history of the project.
“What better way to remember the name and legacy of the little girl who is known to so many and whose giving spirit and positive attitude was felt by all she came into contact with than the gift of unconditional joy that comes from play?” Cunningham said.
Students from the Coral Reef Elementary chorus, led by music teacher Ted Nicholeris, sang three songs chosen for the event.
Guest speakers included Joann Gibson, Bridget’s second grade teacher at Coral Reef Elementary; the school’s past PTA president Leanne Tellam; former Councilmember Patrick Fiore; Bridget’s father, Brian Pier, and her mother.
“It’s such an honor to be here today to honor Bridget in this favorite place of hers,” said Joann Gibson, praising Bridget’s lively and spirited playfulness. “It is so fitting to have this dedication here today and I’m honored to have been part of her past.”
Brian Pier recalled what made his daughter special in an emotional tribute.
“Bridget had such a big heart, and she was always giving people a piece of her heart. She was always bringing flowers to her teachers and her friends. She liked to tell people how much she loved them. Unsolicited she would give them a piece of her heart,” he said.
“I appreciate everyone coming out here. I know Bridget will be looking out over all the kids on this playground, with her love and her protection.”
Meighan Alexander next spoke about her daughter, recounting how once on a road trip Bridget had seen someone throw trash out of a car and to try to make a positive difference she asked her mom if they could pick up trash at an area ahead and dispose of it properly. Alexander deeply appreciated the naming of the playground.
“I think it’s the most appropriate thing to name the playground after her because she was the epitome of what you find at the playground, a child who is willing to let someone butt in front of her, will pick up someone who has fallen and scratched their knee. She cared, she laughed, she found everything friendly in everything she did.”
Some of Bridget’s first grade classmates — Makhi Joseph, Owen Katsikas, Jeffrey Kline, Brianna Meurrens, Maxwell Stone and Jack Sulkes — did the unveiling of the large stone bearing the dedication plaque honoring Bridget. Then there was a butterfly release.
Bill Lopez, a resident attending the ceremony and whose daughter Peyton was singing in the chorus, afterward said he was deeply moved by the event and the tribute remarks.
“I didn’t know Bridget’s story or the tragedy or anything, but I felt compelled to tell her mom that I get it, as a father, her pain. More importantly, to thank her and her family for being brave enough to share the story, to let other people realize how precious life is and the importance of telling people you love them every day…to not take things for granted.”