In January, 2010 a developmentally disabled young woman from North Collins named Laura Cummings 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 led to the establishment of 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.
Led by Churches In Action – a cross denominational “coalition” of WNY churches, committed to making a difference for people in WNY and beyond, one of the project’s goals was to establish an “Angel of Hope” memorial in a 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. This goal was achieved in 2018 with the dedication of the Angel of Hope memorial in Forest Lawn.
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 believed 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 dozens of cities across America, but also in Canada and Japan. The memorial in Forest Lawn is the 146th Angel of Hope in existence worldwide. And at many of these memorials, a candlelight vigil is held during the month of December.