MARLBORO COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – An 8-year-old Bennettsville girl whose life was tragically cut short will be immortalized in the form of a playground.
Members of the Pee Dee Coalition, a nonprofit volunteer organization working to reduce child abuse, family violence and sexual assault, are dedicating a playground to Iyana Lowery, whose body was found May 14, more than a week after she was reported missing.
Dubbed "Iyana's Playground," it will part of the coalition's new transitional shelter on Hickson Road in Wallace, according to Barbara Steadman, director of resource development.
"Iyana's story is … it's a huge tragedy," Steadman said. "It's hard to express how difficult it is for the family."
The 8-year-old was reported missing from her home on Craig Circle in Bennettsville on May 5. Her mother, 36-year-old Ella Lowery, was found dead at that residence.
According to Marlboro County Sheriff Charles Lemon, Iyana Lowery's body was identified through DNA records. He added the coroner ruled the child's death a homicide.
Jejauncey Harrington, 32, of Bennettsville, has been charged in connection with both murders.
Steadman said the idea to dedicate the playground to Iyana Lowery first surfaced after coalition members talked about something positive they could do for the family.
"The idea of this little girl, what would she like? Where would she spend her time?" Steadman said.
Ultimately, it was memories of mothers and daughters at the playground that stuck. Steadman said it will serve a dual purpose – providing the family with a place that could provide some comfort, and offering children who stay at the home something fun to do.
The shelter, which will house abused women and children, is set to open June 1, according to Steadman. The playground will be dedicated in October to coincide with Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Steadman said private support is funding the work to tear out the existing playground and replace it with new equipment.
By working with the family on this endeavor, Steadman said it has given them the opportunity to imagine "brighter thoughts."
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