Project halfway funded
A permanent bronze tribute to a Winter Park Life Scout’s fallen friend has made it halfway to becoming a reality.
Winter Park resident and Bishop Moore High School student John Michael Thomas, 15, passed the halfway point this week when he raised $25,821.73 to have a bronze peacock fountain placed in the Central Park rose garden – a memorial for his childhood friend Elizabeth Buckley who passed away of an inoperable brain tumor.
Today the 7-foot, bronze peacock resides in England with artist Lloyd Le Blanc, waiting to be shipped off to Winter Park. A total cost of $50,000 will pay for the fountain, shipping, irrigation and the landscaping costs, as well as an engraved message about Elizabeth.
John Michael chose to pursue the statue as his Eagle Scout project last fall – a year after Elizabeth passed away at the age of 13 in December 2012.
The Winter Park scout wasted no time when he kicked off his fundraising in May, spreading the word and raising $3,200 in just the first week.
John Michael now sees light at the end of the tunnel, closing in on a tribute he hopes will bring healing to Elizabeth’s family.
“I know Mr. and Mrs. Buckley are still having a hard time,” John Michael said. “I hope this gives them that hope back.”
Support came from every direction when John Michael began his effort to immortalize Elizabeth’s memory in bronze. Bishop Moore High School immediately wrote a check for $1,000 to support the campaign, while St. Margaret Mary Catholic School took donations from students and raised $2,000.
Local Winter Park businesses stepped as well, such as Peterbrooke Chocolatier, who now sells chocolate peacocks to support the cause. A dollar from every purchase goes toward bringing the fountain to its future home in Central Park.
Clyde Moore, the man behind the “I LUV Winter Park” social media persona, is taking a similar approach, selling peacock-themed T-shirts to help move the project forward.
“It’s just amazing how generous everyone is in this city,” John Michael said. “I’m so thankful.”
John Michael’s friendship with Elizabeth dates back to their year of kindergarten at St. Margaret Mary Catholic School. The scout remembers Elizabeth’s curious nature and enthusiasm in the classroom, but most of all recalls her love for peacocks.
Drawings of the colorful bird in colored pencil covered the 13-year-old’s bedroom walls and filled her shelves, while an easel on her balcony sported a painted peacock feather with the words “love life” written below.
“She would love it,” said Elizabeth’s mother, Pamela, gazing at a photograph of the fountain that would embody her daughter’s memory and sprit.
Elizabeth’s father Martin said it’s encouraging to see the project come so far, though he realizes there’s still more fundraising to be done.
“It’s immensely gratifying to us to see the project come closer to fruition,” Martin said. “The project is very near and dear to our hearts, and it’s not just because it’s in Elizabeth’s memory, it’s John Michael’s commitment to this project and the hard work that he’s put into it.”
“It’s extremely touching, because it speaks volumes to what a fine young man he is, but also that Elizabeth had such an impact on him that he’d be willing to undertake this project and stick to it.”
John Michael said he plans to start selling wrist bands next week to support the project, hoping to have the peacock fountain placed by November.