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Park celebrates ‘beauty, inspiration’ of girl killed in head-on crash

From Day One, the notion of celebrating Katie Durkin’s life, not mourning her death, struck a nerve with people.

Now, more than a year after the head-on collision that took her life, nowhere is that notion more evident, more real, than at the new playground in Wales built in celebration of a 9-year-old-girl remembered by friends as creative, quirky and fun loving.

The first step in a much larger project, the playground is open to the public, the product of a fundraising effort that reflected Katie’s inspiring story.

The goal was to raise $425,000 and it was met in less than a year.

“As strange as this may sound, there are gifts in suffering a loss such as this,” Jeff Durkin, Katie’s father, said in a recent Facebook message. “One of which is coming to understand that this community is made up of incredible, loving and caring people.”

Built with the help of more than 200 volunteers and financed with monetary and in-kind contributions, the playground, located next to Wales Primary School, is just the first phase of a larger project called the “Butterfly Athletic Park.”

Still to come are a youth soccer field, basketball court and running track. In short, there is more work to be done, including scholarships, and more money to be raised.

From the start, the Butterfly Foundation started by Katie’s family depended on grassroots fundraising like the charity golf tournament planned for Saturday in Lancaster.

“It really hit home with me,” tournament organizer John Dorchak said of the Durkins’ efforts to celebrate Katie’s life. “To turn that tragedy into a way to honor Kate is just amazing.”

Dorchak is the motivation behind the Butterfly Golf Tournament planned for the Buffalo Tournament Club, 6432 Genesee St. Tickets to the charity golf event are $110 and can be reserved by contacting Dorchak at 570-1492 or

The goal, Dorchak said, is to celebrate Katie’s short but meaningful life by creating a park that mirrors her legacy, and then continuing that legacy through scholarships and more capital projects.

“The tournament will help continue the work the foundation has started,” he said.

There are two constant themes in the fundraisers that have helped make Butterfly Park a reality.

The first is the butterfly that is part of the group’s logo, a symbol of a “life that undergoes a swift and magical transformation while becoming a subject of beauty and inspiration for many.”

The other constant is the phrase Katie’s friends use, even now, more than a year after her death, when describing her: kind and thoughtful in everything, or KATIE.

The playground and nearby pavilion were built with the help of local contractors and building trade unions, and with the help of a state grant.


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