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Tree recalls a life cut short

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By John Barnhart

Caitlyn Burks, of Big Island would have graduated from Liberty High School this year.

    Instead, a red maple was planted at Big Island Elementary School in her memory. On April 5, 1997, Caitlyn, then in kindergarten at Big Island, was killed when she was struck by a car in front of her home on Va. 122. The Rev. Byron LePere, president of the Big Island PTA, said that it was just a tragic accident.

    The tree was planted on April 24 in a ceremony that included a group of students from Liberty High School’s graduating class as well as Caitlyn’s parents, Robert and Donna Burks. The students, all from Big Island, were Caitlyn’s classmates.

    The teens played an active role. The young men from the class helped LePere place the substantial sapling in the hole that had been dug for it. Then the students joined Caitlyn’s parents, each placing a ceremonial shovel full of earth in the hole.

    “We thought this was an appropriate thing to honor her,” said LePere.

    The day was Arbor Day, a day often marked by planting trees. Furthermore, the maple tree, as it grows, will benefit the playground. LePere said that each child has the potential to grow and flourish like that tree.

    Along with the tree, a granite marker with Caitlyn Burks’ name on it has been placed next to the tree, reminding people for years to come of the tree’s significance.