MT. JULIET – Three years in the making, a water park in honor of Krista's Bright's little girl, Ava Shaye, came to life Saturday morning in Mt. Juliet.
Filled with emotion, Krista told the crowd of hundreds who came to the ribbon cutting of Ava's Splash Pad at Charlie Daniels Park she had only three choices when her little girl died three years ago at the tender age of two after complications of what was supposed to be a simple tonsillectomy.
"I could cease to exist," said Krista. "Or I could continue breathing, but going nowhere. Or I could make a promise that little Ava's passing would not go unnoticed."
She chose the third and on Saturday her dream of building a 4,000 square foot splash pad for the community came to fruition, but not without a lot of dogged determination, sleepless nights, endless fundraisers and help from a caring community.
Little Ava Shaye Bright loved nothing more than to splash. Krista said Ava didn't care if it was a fancy pool, at the shores of the lake or in puddles of rain. After complications in the operating room, Ava lost her life on March 21, 2010. Since that time, Krista and members of the community planned for the splash pad.
"Because Ava loved the water," said Krista.
Mt. Juliet Parks Director Rocky Lee introduced Krista, her husband Jim and their daughter's Havan, 1, and Aynslee, 3.
"This is a legacy for a little girl's life," said Lee. "Out of such a tragedy comes a sharing of love, a love for Ava and investing in new memories for others."
Lee spent about 15 minutes thanking all those who donated time and money to the project.
"I wondered if I'd ever be here at the end of this journey," said Krista, as Aynslee stood close in her swimming suit. "I think somebody should pinch me. Thank all of you for keeping Ava alive."
Krista thanked city officials and all those who took part in the project. She turned to her friend Jennifer Hamblin and told her throughout the process she showed "selfless love....and kept me going."
Several city commissioners went on stage to help cut the ribbon for the official opening of the splash pad and then the water was turned on to the giggles and delight of hundreds of children eager to splash.
Not long after, Krista and her daughters were among hundreds of children splashing and playing in water that sprayed from dozens of fun structures that were custom made from Ava's favorite things; rainbows and flowers and bright colors.
"I am just loving this," said Krista as she watched children enjoy the splash pad. "This right here is the reason I did this. It's great to see them running and playing. They love it."
Little Ella Hartlein, 6 months old, giggled and stood with help atop a round ball while water squirted onto her feet. Her dad Michael just smiled and said, "She's loving this."
Linda Gregory and Danna Hutton were in the mix as well, a little wet and watching their children who ranged in ages from 2 to 9.
"We are friends with Krista," said Danna. "This is overwhelming."
Kaden Gregory, 9, took two seconds to stop and say her favorite feature was the rainbow section.
In conjunction with the opening of the splash pad, the city of Mt. Juliet organized a splash day that included about a dozen water-themed attractions and other activities.