EDITORIAL: Fresno's compassion shows in the Garden of Innocence

May 3, 2013 

Five children will receive a proper burial beginning at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Fresno's Mountain View Cemetery.

Most of them were stillborn and left behind at hospitals. A few breathed for a few seconds or minutes. All were abandoned by parents or brought to the Fresno County morgue without identification. But they'll receive a loving farewell from a respectful and emotional gathering of people at the Garden of Innocence.

Attendees will form a circle around the garden and pass around small urns containing each child's remains. Later the urns will be placed in vaults with stuffed animals, blankets and rose petals and then buried.

Their names -- chosen by volunteers -- will be announced before a poem written for each child is read.

The names of the young who will be buried Saturday: Rachel, Sebastian, John Paul, Donnie James and Aaron.

It wasn't until last year that Fresno's forgotten children received such respect and love. Before the Garden of Innocence was created, they were cremated, stored at the morgue and eventually buried in mass unmarked graves at the county's desolate and untended "Potter's Field." Each mass grave there holds the remains of between 200 and 400 people.

Fresno's Garden of Innocence is the result of an effort involving Elissa Davey of Carlsbad, Kelly Matlock of the Fresno County Coroner's Office, Mountain View Cemetery manager Elaine Tosh and community volunteers.

Davey founded Garden of Innocence National, a nonprofit, in 2005.

"I was reading a newspaper article about a baby who was left in the trash," Davey said last year while in Fresno to forge a partnership with the county and cemetery. "The first thing I thought was, 'Who could do something like this?' I didn't forget."

Now Fresno isn't forgetting, either. On Oct. 27 of last year, memorial services for 24 children were held at the garden, a beautiful space set off by red brick pillars and black wrought iron fencing.

You can send donations to Garden of Innocence-Fresno County, P.O. Box 28471, Fresno 93729.

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