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Village board approves skate park to honor three young boys

LOVINGTON -- A small town is turning tragedy into opportunity.
LOVINGTON -- A small town is turning tragedy into opportunity. The Lovington Village Board approved building a skate park Monday night. It will be dedicated to three young lives lost in a crash more than two years ago.

So much was going against the Bennett family as they tried to get the park approved. First, a grant to help pay for the park fell through. Also, some people in Lovington, including village board members, were against it being built. But Bennett and her supporters overcame it all.

"It was definitely nerve-wracking for me. Honestly, I came in here thinking it wasn't going to pass," Candi Bennett.

But it did, barely. Lovington board members approved building the skate park by a 4-2 vote, bringing a rush of emotions for Bennett.

"Joy, happiness, relief," she said.

Bennett lost her son Dakota in a horrific crash a few years ago. His two friends Braxton and Bryson, and their father, Mike Martin, were also killed in the wreck.

"It's awful. I can barely look at it when I'm driving by there," Bennett said of the crash site.

For more than two years, it has served as a tragic reminder of what happened that January afternoon. But Bennett hopes the spot where the skate park will be built can change that.

"I think it will bring me happiness, to see that I can take my loss, my tragedy and give back to the kids."

Bennett had to raise more than $50,000 to pay for it. Slowly but surely, fundraisers, donations and grants added up. She got one grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation. A local car wash donated 100% of its sales over the past few weeks, and then matched it.

The community also hosted a rummage sale this weekend that raised more than $2,600. But a $14,000 contribution from a local trust fund had some scratching their heads.

"That's great for a memorial. But I just feel like the village, their part of the money, $14,000, could have went to better things than a skate park," said former mayor Gary Smith.

"I never meant for it to cause any drama or for the town to be divided. I just hope that they can see that this is for the kids, all along."

The next step is to sign a contract with American Ramp Company, which is providing the pieces necessary for the park. After that the village can move forward with building it.

****Video depicts the board approving the skate park with a 4-3 vote. The village president later acknowledged the vote should have been announced as 4-2 after the story aired.****
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