After three years of diligent fundraising efforts, Rachael Ristau’s Fayetteville Memory Garden is nearly ready for public viewing. A grand opening ceremony will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, at the garden, located next to the Fayetteville Senior Center on East Genesee Street.
“It’s so surreal, I don’t even have words,” said Ristau, a 2011 graduate of Fayetteville-Manlius High School who now attends Ithaca College.
When Ristau started the project during her sophomore year, she didn’t realize how big an impact the garden was going to have on the community. She feels honored to be part of such a supportive community.
“It’s the coolest moment in my life,” Ristau said.
“It’s not about me anymore,’ she added. “The garden has been built, and it’s doing what it needs to do.”
Ristau’s garden has been built to honor her father, Michael Ristau, who died in 2005 after a long battle with liver cancer. Ristau came up with the idea to create the Memory Garden in 2009, and since March of 2010 has made it her mission to create the garden for the community to have a place to reflect on those they may have lost, but also to remember the wonderful memories created.
Through multiple fundraising efforts, Ristau has raised tens of thousands of dollars in order to complete the project — she plans to announce the total amount at Saturday’s ceremony. The community pulled together in support of Ristau’s mission by selling bricks honoring departed loved ones which will be part of the garden’s walkway, collecting donations and through big fundraising events such as F-M day and “Throw your garden” held at the Craftsman Inn.
Ristau described the fundraising as a “group effort between the majority of the grade.” The F-M Class of 2011 assisted in either volunteering at F-M day or buying an FM day t-shirt, annual car washes, walking in the parade, helping to spread the word, or finding one of the many fundraisers in the hallway put on by Ristau.