Eagle Scout builds playground as memorial to friend who died


The grand opening of a playground may seem like a simple thing. But there is a story here of life, death and, most of all, friendship.

It starts with George Belton, a 13-year-old boy full of life and energy. He was an altar server and a Boy Scout, and a much-loved son to his parents. Last year, he died in an ATV accident. The playground at his church is his memorial.

George's father Tim Belton said, "There always seemed to be a lot of fun and activity wherever he went. So I think focusing on scouts being reverent allows us to remember that here at the park."

The story also involves an Eagle Scout, 17-year-old Thomas Jurica. He, too, was an altar server and involved in scouting with George. Like so many friends, he was stunned by the loss of a boy he'd grown up beside. The difference is what he did with that loss. Thomas was the driving force behind this playground.

To pay for it, he had to conduct a fundraising drive. His parents required him to do it on his own and he did -- $29,000 was donated.

Thomas said, "We raised money for the playground, through bulletins, personal letters to family and friends for their help and, thanks to God, I got their help. I got donations and financial support to be able to build this project."

Fellow Boy Scouts provided much of the labor. The church playground for students at its school is named for the saint who slayed the dragon and the young boy who bore the same name.

"St. George of England is George Belton's patron saint and the patron saint of Boy Scouts," Thomas said. "That's why it's St. George Playground."

That's the story behind a playground that was recently blessed by the parish priest -- a place where there'll be the sound of children, named for a boy who is gone, but who had a friend who wanted him to be remembered. That means a lot to George Belton's parents.

His mother Elisabeth Belton said, "It's just a wonderful memory for our son."

The playground is a testimonial to friendship and to the character of a lot of young boys.

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