Casey Lake Park fundraiser to start next week

Zahradkas continue their playground rebuild in memory of daughter

Sarah and Tony Zahradka are continuing their efforts toward building a preschool-age playground at Casey Lake Park in memory of their daughter, Janie, who died unexpectedly last September.

Their newest project: a fundraiser that would install name-plated bricks (paving stones) at the park, which is located off 17th Avenue and Mohawk Road in North St. Paul.

The fundraiser is expected to begin next week, with multiple options available to interested donors. A 4-by-8 brick would cost $75, while an 8-by-8 brick would go for $175.

“(With) something like this, people are willing to contribute,” North St. Paul Mayor Mike Kuehn said. “The nice part about it is it’s not just a contribution. It’s something that’s permanent.”

The idea was presented to the North St. Paul City Council at its meeting on Tuesday, April 15, with the overall goal of $105,000 still within reach. So far, the Zahradkas have raised about $55,000 in donations for the new playground.

Ideas were presented for the paver fundraiser, such as donors receiving a name-plated brick that would be displayed in the park, name-plated park benches, as well as getting students from North High School involved.

The possibility of giving local high-schoolers something permanently marked with their name in their hometown gives Sarah reason to find a place for them.

“It would be fun if the year you graduated was the year the park was built,” Sarah Zahradka said. “It would be cool to have your name and graduation year in there.”

The chosen designer of the preschool playground project, Play by Design, is a New York-based company. The “Magical Forest Tot Lot” would be a unique design and one of only two in the state, with the nearest comparable one located in East Grand Forks, MN.

“It’s going to be a gathering place, in a good way,” Zahradka said. “It’s going to be a place where (parents with young children) would be willing to drive a couple miles out of their way to go to.”

Also mentioned was the possibility of an expanded picnic area being added to the overall design; something that would likely not impact the dollar amount the family is trying to raise.

The Zahradkas said they used to take their daughter to parks throughout North St. Paul and Maplewood. Casey Lake Park is the one closest to their home, but it wasn’t designed for children as young as Janie, who was 18 months old when she died of “Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood.”

After Janie’s death, the Zahradkas received cash memorials in lieu of flowers, and they wanted to do something meaningful with the money.

A brochure about the park fund came in the mail, and they knew that was it. They could help create something their toddler would have loved.

While the Zahradkas say their primary objective is to uphold the memory of Janie, they say the park project is also an attempt to make North St. Paul a better place to live. 

“At the end of the day, we all want the same thing, and that’s a better community that’s better for families, and more attractive to families that come to our area. That’s the bottom line,” Sarah Zahradka said.

To order a name-plate brick by credit card, you can visit

Tim Faklis can be reached at or at 651-748-7814.

  1. Designer picked for Janie Zahradka memorial playground in North St. Paul posted 3-5-14

  2. North St. Paul couple donates $34K for toddler park in daughter’s memory posted 2-26-14

  3. Janie's legacy of laughter and love: After toddler’s death, parents pursue memorial playground posted 11-14-13


Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here