NEW WHITELAND, Ind. -- The push to provide a sacred space to remember of fallen heroes is well underway in Johnson County.
Maribeth Aslpach holds up a new flier, featuring a QR code and a picture of Fallen Indiana State Trooper Aaron Smith, who was a Whiteland High School graduate.
"It's a small price that we pay here at this park to thank them for all that they have been willing to sacrifice," says Alspach who chairs the Proctor Park Volunteer Committee in New Whiteland.
Proctor Park sits on 11 donated acres of land off Tracy Road. It is a community space of respect and remembrance for the many sacrifices by Hoosier heroes in the military and those who serve our community here at home.
Inside the park, in addition to two play spaces, shelters, a walking trail and pond, visitors can stroll through a number of memorial sites dedicated to these heroes.
And now, the park committee is working to honor a Johnson County fallen hero who served in both the military and in law enforcement.
"It's really going well," says Alspach. "I'm thankful to everyone who has donated."
Originally, when WRTV spoke to Alspach, she planned to raise funds for a memorial for Aaron Smith and also renovate the law enforcement section of the memorial space in the far south end of the park.
However, after a meeting this past week, plans have changed. The park committee now plans to move the law enforcement memorial portion to the front of the park near the north entrance to make it more accessible to visitors.
They also plan to build a new, granite monument for first responders in a currently unused space, and the projected cost can run anywhere from 40 to 50 thousand dollars. The original ask was 11-thousand dollars, with a hope of raising more.
"I underestimated what this project would cost," says Alspach. "We need money. We need a lot of money. But I also know that there are people out there who can donate services or materials."
Alspach has been reaching out to area businesses, asking for donations of funds and materials.
A local not for profit, Uplift Johnson County, has agreed to partner on this project. They created a simple QR code way for folks to donate and the organization already pledged 5-thousand dollars to go to the memorial.
Local students at Clark Pleasant Community Schools also stepped up to help raise funds at the most recent football game at Whiteland High School.
Alspach says 15 to 20 students carried around buckets at that game raising about 700 dollars in donations.
At the game, the family of Trooper Smith was also honored.
WRTV talked to Garry Smith, Aaron's father about what a memorial to honor his son's service at Proctor Park would mean to him.
"It's just heartwarming and spiritual. It's just the ability to witness those who have fallen. It's a quiet place, a place of prayer," says Smith. "My son is going to be honored there, that's what it means to me."
Alspach says Aaron used to visit the park. She recently met with his widow, Megan, as they discussed ideas for the memorial and fundraiser.
Alspach mentioned that local fallen hero, Jimmy Waters, served with Aaron and that the two were friends. Waters has a marker at Proctor Park.
The Waters family was also at that Whiteland football game and discussed the plans for the memorial at the park.
"To have Jimmy and Aaron together makes me cry. It's a good place to remember these guys," says Valerie Waters, his mother. "You don't want them forgotten. They don't want Aaron forgotten because that's the worse thing that can happen."
Jimmy's father, Garry Waters adds, "It's an honor to stand especially on the bricks with so many heroes."
The park is not a New Whiteland Park. It is a community park, created from donations and open to all Hoosiers who want to come pay their respects. For families of the fallen and for those who serve, it holds a special meaning.
"You need people around you to support you and believe in what you believe," says Garry Waters. The Waters family also made a large donation to the new project.
So far, the fundraising is about a third of the way there.
Alspach says the community is stepping up in big ways.
Crystal Graphics printed 100 color postcards with the QR code and donation information at no charge to the park committee.
The local Texas Roadhouse donated a basket for a drawing at the football game, which generated almost 250 dollars.
The Whiteland VFW pledged one-thousand dollars to this campaign and the generosity continue to come in.
If you want to donate to help fund this project to honor first responders, you can visit https://www.upliftjoco.org/ and click DONATE NOW on the homepage.