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Tree planted at Southbend Park in honor of 7-year-old who died in December

Bradley Kennedy loved the outdoors, and one of his favorite places to go was Southbend Park, where he’d spend time running around on the playground, or taking a spin in the skate park.

Sadly, Bradley died in December in an all-terrain vehicle accident, and those who loved him and cherished him were at his beloved Southbend Park on a gorgeous Friday afternoon to help plant a tree in his memory.

As part of the annual LaGrange Arbor Day ceremony, which was supposed to be on Wednesday but was postponed because of rain, a red maple tree was planted in Bradley’s honor, and a bench in his name was also dedicated.

On hand for the ceremony were members of Bradley’s family, including his father, Chase Kennedy and his mother, Kathryn Grace Howard, as well as LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton and Community Development Director Alton West.

Kennedy, speaking while holding a photo of Bradley, believes planting a tree that will be enjoyed by families for years and decades to come is an ideal way to remember his son.

“Bradley’s favorite color is red. We chose red maple,” Kennedy said. “He died at a young age. He was 7-years-old. (The tree) is pretty young. I can watch it grow. Unfortunately, I can’t see Bradley grow as much as I’d want to, but I have something I can remember him by, and that means the world to me.”

Howard spent plenty of time at the park with her son, and she said “Bradley had a big love for this park.”

“We came here after school and during the summer months,” she said. “Bradley would love to ride his scooter, bike and skateboard up and down the slopes. He always loved being outside.”

A tree was planted in Bradley Kennedy’s honor Friday at Southbend Park. –Kevin Eckleberry

The one thing that would slow Bradley down was his quest to collect artifacts from nature, and he amassed quite a collection according to his mom.

“I can’t tell you how many leaves and rocks he collected from places, including here,” Howard said. “Bradley always looked to nature with such wonder and awe. He would have loved this beautiful red maple tree. Red was his favorite color. It is so fitting that this tree was planted in his memory.”

Thornton believes Southbend Park, which opened in 2019, is a perfect spot for the new tree.

“They say every day is a good day to plant a tree, and I think that most places are good places to plant trees,” Thornton said. “Certainly, when you look around at Southbend Park and you see all the activity, and you see all the young people at play on the skate park, and the playground, and the dogs that play in the dog park, you see that this is a well-utilized space, and a community space here in LaGrange.”

The park was bustling during Friday’s ceremony, with dozens of people taking advantage of the facility on a cool, but pleasant spring day.

“Today is a great day to plant a tree,” Thornton said. “What a beautiful day.”

The ceremony was well-attended, and many of the people who have helped Bradley’s family make it through a difficult time were there to offer their support.

“People who don’t live in LaGrange, this is the best town you could pick,” Kennedy said. “The love and support in this little town is amazing. These are some of the worst times, especially this past year, with COVID and tragic things happening. I’ve realized the best thing we can do is support each other, and just show love. Help each other, be there for each other.”