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Thursday, February 17, 2011

US park to be named in Zahra's honour

Community groups in the US state of North Carolina are dedicating a playground for children with disabilities to Australian girl Zahra Baker.

Hickory and the Kiwanis clubs of Catawba County are creating a $US85,000 ($A84,800) addition to the Kiwanis Park in Hickory with play equipment that Zahra, who lost part of a leg to bone cancer, would have been able to enjoy, the Hickory Daily Record reports.

"There's no one here that wasn't touched in some way by Zahra. We want to honour her here for special needs children," Hickory mayor Rudy Wright told the paper.

Advertisement: Story continues below Zahra, who lived in Hickory with her Australian father and American stepmother, was reported missing by her parents in October last year, and her remains were found scattered in bushland weeks later.

No one has been charged over the 10-year-old's death, but her stepmother was arrested a day after she was reported missing, accused of writing a fake ransom note, and remains in custody.

Zahra's story has made headlines around the world, as well as in her adopted home town.

"Since the passing of Zahra, I've had a number of people ask me if there was something to commemorate this young lady," Wright told the Record.

The new addition to the playground, named the Zahra Baker All Children's Playground, will include a bronze plaque saying, "Zahra, you touched us. 1999-2010", along with her photo.

Steve Aaron, president of the Western Catawba County Kiwanis Club, said the local Kiwanis clubs - which are community groups dedicated to helping children - were interested in doing something in Zahra's honour because of the impact she had on the community.

Aaron said the park would be unique because, in addition to the handicap-accessible park, wheelchairs would actually be able to get on the ramps and other equipment.

Donations will be taken through June 30 for the park. If donations surpass the $US85,000 needed for the playground, the money will be used for a scholarship in Zahra's name.

Hickory parks and recreation director Mack McLeod said he hoped work on the park would be completed by the end of July