Thousands tuned in to the city of Santa Clarita’s annual Evening of Remembrance Tuesday, honoring lives lost in traffic-related incidents, as it was held virtually this year amid the pandemic.
“We’re here to raise awareness throughout Santa Clarita and vow that we will do everything in our power so that no more names are added to the Youth Grove,” city of Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth said. “By tuning into this year’s event, no matter where you are, you help demonstrate that Santa Clarita is a community that supports friends, neighbors and family members who have lost loved ones in such a tragic way.”
While the traditional event could not be held in person, by Wednesday morning, the live-streamed video had garnered more than 12,000 views on Facebook, as residents joined in to remember the Santa Clarita Valley’s youth.
“We can’t be together tonight at the Youth Grove with our relatives, friends and neighbors, standing next to the tree stumps that represent our forever loved ones. We can’t hug each other and give one another support,” Alice Renolds, whose two sons are represented at the Youth Grove, said in the video. “This evening’s event is not the same, but we are here for one another.”
Following the “Forever Young” slideshow presentation, honoring each youth whose name is in the Youth Grove at Central Park, this year’s event featured prerecorded performances from the memorial, including a performance of “Amazing Grace” by Chloe Villamayor and Peter Walsh of the SCV Youth Orchestra, as well as “Who You’d Be Today,” a song by Kenny Chesney, signed in American Sign Language by Ashley Burkhart.
“Through the Youth Grove, we ensure the lives of these youth will serve a greater purpose,” Smyth added. “That purpose is to inspire our community to act towards ensuring that no more lives are lost on our roads. … I ask all of you to reflect on the lives cut short and on the importance of being responsible when behind the wheel. Doing so ensures that we all do our part to prevent tragedies from happening on our streets and highways.”
The Youth Grove features a central monument with the “Know More, No More” vow surrounded by simulated tree stumps, symbolizing the 115 SCV lives cut short in traffic-related incidents, with names added every September before the annual remembrance event.
“That is 115 lives lost, 115 futures destroyed,” West Ranch High School student Riley Blaugrund said. “These young people could have gone on to become leaders who made our world a better place. … They will forever be tree stumps whose full potential will never be reached. They will never get to grow into full trees.”
Motor-vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S., a statistic that Blaugrund asked SCV residents to be part of changing, by avoiding distracted driving, driving sober, focusing on the road and wearing their seatbelts.
“These steps could save a life, including your own,” she added, “so please, I urge you, drive safely to protect your future and the futures of youth in Santa Clarita. … It is not just your future you are putting into danger. It is ours too.”
For more information on the Youth Grove, visit santa-clarita.com/YouthGrove or call 661-250-3708.