Honoring the Memory of Victims of Child Abuse

Honoring the Memory of Victims of Child Abuse


December 2, 2018


A new monument to be dedicated in Forest Lawn this week through the Loving Laura Project

A tragic story has become the catalyst for an effort to raise awareness about child abuse and domestic violence – an effort that will culminate this Thursday, December 6 with the placement of a new memorial in Forest Lawn to the young victims of these crimes.

In January, 2010 a developmentally disabled young woman from North Collins named Laura Cummings (see photo) was murdered following years of brutal emotional, psychological, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her mother and oldest brother. She was 23 years old at the time of her death, though she had the mental capability of a seven or eight-year-old child.

The story of her tortured life shocked the community and motivated Suzanne McKenney to action. In 2015, Mrs. McKenney, who is President Emerita of the Character Council of Western New York, established the Loving Laura Project, a community-supported fundraising initiative intended to honor the life of Laura Cummings, and shine a brighter light on the scourge of child abuse.

“Though the community could not hear Laura’s cries for help when she was alive, the Loving Laura Project provides for her, in death, a strong voice that speaks out with a bold statement against the atrocities committed against this beautiful, innocent girl,” Mrs. McKenney said.

The Loving Laura Project was founded with two very specific initiatives in mind:

  • To honor Laura’s memory with the dignity she deserved, but was denied her in life, by laying her to rest with a proper burial and a memorial headstone. This goal was achieved in July 2016, when Laura was interred at Holy Spirit Church cemetery in North Collins, with her life now permanently memorialized on a beautiful marker.
  • To establish an “Angel of Hope” memorial in another high-profile public space to stand as a symbol of hope for all those who have lost a child, as well as a symbol against violence and for justice for the most defenseless in our society, our innocent children.

The Angel of Hope statue was introduced to the world in the book The Christmas Box, a worldwide bestseller and hit television movie by author Richard Paul Evans. In the book, a woman mourns the loss of her child at the base of an angel monument. Though the story is mostly fiction, the angel monument once existed but is speculated to have been destroyed.

Evans commissioned a new bronze angel statue, in response to reports that grieving parents were seeking out the angel as a place to grieve and heal. The monument was dedicated in Salt Lake City, Utah on December 6, 1994…corresponding with the date of the child’s death in The Christmas Box. In addition to the angel in the Salt Lake City cemetery, there are Christmas Box angel statues, each often named ‘Angel of Hope,’ in more than 120 places, primarily across America, but also throughout the world, including Canada and Japan.

Now, two years after Laura’s burial, an “Angel of Hope” memorial is about to become a reality here in Western New York. Forest Lawn has donated the space for the memorial, which has been installed behind the historic Forest Lawn chapel in the newly developed chapel meadow.

“We’re honored to provide this very special place of peace, beauty and serenity for everyone who has lost a child, and in support of this important tribute and perpetual public reminder that everyone must be vigilant for the signs of child abuse – never to remain silent or think it’s someone else’s job to speak out about this evil,” said Joseph Dispenza, Forest Lawn’s President.

The memorial was installed by the team from Stone Art Memorial in Forest Lawn on Friday, and it will be dedicated this Thursday, December 6 at 4:30 p.m. in what will be the first annual Angel of Hope Candlelight Vigil. This dedication event is open to the public, and all are invited to attend.

“We are very grateful to all the members of our community who have supported the Loving Laura Project,” Mrs. McKenney said. “And we thank Forest Lawn and Stone Art Memorial for all they’ve done to make the Angel of Hope a reality.”