With a drummer in front and scores of Santa Clarita Valley families behind, Tom and Alice Renolds walked through Central Park for the fifth time for the annual Evening of Remembrance on Wednesday, after losing their two sons 18 years ago.
“Being here tonight is really important,” Alice said. “I tell parents to hang in there. You will never be normal. Find a new normal… and know that grief softens.”
Alice referred to the families in attendance and all others who have lost a loved one due to traffic-related collisions. The Renolds lost their sons Timothy, 17, and Daniel, 15, in February of 2000, after the driver of the vehicle they were passengers in crashed due to high-speed driving down Soledad Canyon Road.
Wednesday’s event, the 14th annual, was to honor the local youth who died and to highlight the dangers of drunk and reckless driving.
“We have come together as a community to remember the youth whose lives were cut short to traffic accidents that are terribly and horribly impacting to all of us,” said the city of Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste. “More importantly, we are here to raise awareness and to vow that we will do everything in our power so that there will be no more names added to the Youth Grove.”
This year, the Youth Grove — a monument at the park made of multiple tree stumps with the names of those who have passed away — grew with the addition of two more names, coming to a total count of 107.
Families and friends gathered by the tree stumps, taking a moment to remember their loved ones during the event. The evening opened with the Walk of Remembrance, where attendance exceeded more than 150 people, walked through the park, with parents who lost a child holding a white rose. Student-athletes, who held practice at the same time as the event, paused momentarily and stood in silence as the crowd walked passed the fields.
The event continued with a ceremony where all 107 names were read, followed by several performances, including from Ashley Burkhart, who sang, “Who You’d Be Today.”
Also in attendance were SCV Sheriff’s Station Captain Robert Lewis, CHP officers, City Councilman Cameron Smyth and Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean.
After addressing the public for attending the ceremony, Weste reiterated what the Renolds and other parents mentioned during throughout the event: the importance of coming together for this cause.
“It is heartwarming to see the compassion and unity that we share tonight,” she said. “By walking together and being here, we are demonstrating that we are one as a community in supporting friends, neighbors and family members who have lost a loved one in such a tragic way.”
She added that by joining together, “…we are all taking a stand, a stand against any more unnecessary deaths. Please pledge to be safe, sober and focused when you are driving. Encourage others to do the same.”
Alice said there is more one can do beyond attending the annual event to find support. She recommends those grieving to consider attending the SCV chapter of Compassionate Friends, a nationwide support group to help those through the natural grieving process after the loss of a child.
“Go to these groups and talk to other parents that are going through these issues is the best thing to do,” she said.
She also suggests to parents to find a cause. “After losing Tim and Dany, I didn’t want to live. I had to find a purpose, and my new purpose was to save some other kids.”
Since the loss of both teens, the Renolds, who helped establish the Youth Grove and Evening of Remembrance, are active advocates, lending their voice and story to Youth Court and at school events.
To learn about other resources or the Evening of Remembrance, visit santa-clarita.com/youthgrove.