Family Raises Funds to Build Playground in Son's Honor
Money is being raised to build a playground at Mechanicsville Elementary in memory of Kindergartner Nathan "Nate" Baker who died on Sept. 2.
The tragic death of a 5-year-old kindergarten student at Mechanicsville Elementary has fast forwarded the building of a new playground at the elementary school.
Nate Baker drowned at a lake in Virginia while on vacation Sept. 2. He had finished his first week of kindergarten and his father, Justin Baker, said the family took a trip to their grandparents house at Smith Mountain Lake for one last summer getaway.
Justin said he was standing on the dock speaking to his father-in-law while Nate and his siblings and cousins were jumping off the dock into the water. He said he noticed Nate was not present and saw his son's life jacket and water shoes sitting on the dock.
"I assumed he went up to the house. I checked the house and when I didn't see him I started screaming for him," Justin said.
Nate's body was found in the water two hours later. Justin said no one knows why Nate took off his life vest or why he wandered down the boat ramp. Nate couldn't swim.
"We don't know if he just waded in too far, or if he slipped and fell on the rocks," Justin said.
A few days after Nate's death, Justin said his wife, Kate, brought up the idea of raising money to build a new playground at Mechanicsville Elementary.
The school's current playground has been deemed unsafe, according to Justin, and the children are unable to play on it. The PTA was planning on spending this year raising money for a new playground, but now Nate's parents want to build the playground in his honor.
"Nate would have loved that," Justin said. "He would have wanted to be there while it was being built and he would have wanted to be the first one there to play on it."
Justin said they have another son at Mechanicsville Elementary and a daughter who will be there in several years. He said it would be fitting to have a playground erected in Nate's honor at their school.
"We thought it would be a great way to help other kids play outside like Nate loved to do," Justin said. "I can’t imagine Mechanicsville without a playground. I can’t imagine living in this area, in this county, and having an elementary school with no playground."
Plans for the playground are in place, Justin said, but construction cannot begin until $50,000 is secured to build the first through fifth grade playground. Then an additional $25,000 will be needed for the kindergarten playground.
"They showed us diagrams at parent orientation," Justin said. "It's a beautiful playground, now they just need the money to build it."
And secure the money is exactly what the Baker's intend to do. With the help of family and friends they have built a Facebook page and a website, www.nathanchrisbaker.com. Donations can be made via the website, Facebook page or donations can be made directly to the Mechanicsville PTA Justin said.
The amount of support has been overwhelming, Justin said, and with help, close to $30,000 has already been raised.
"Nate was full of life," Justin said. "He had to be outside, he had to get dirty, he was all boy. But he also had a gentler side. Every morning he would get his 20-month-old sister out of bed, climb onto the couch, turn on the tv and watch tv with her sitting in his lap."
Nate played soccer, he wrestled and this past spring he played baseball on the same team as his big brother Drew in the Sykesville Baseball league.
"He was fun, the funniest kid I know," Justin said. "He knew he was funny and knew we thought he was funny."