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Illinois school cuts down tree that memorialized cancer victim, cites ‘changing needs’

West Chicago Community High School removed a tree and plaque memorializing a student who died of cancer without telling family members, her mother says. Screengrab from Facebook.
West Chicago Community High School removed a tree and plaque memorializing a student who died of cancer without telling family members, her mother says. Screengrab from Facebook.

Illinois high school officials cut down a tree planted in memory of a student who died of cancer, and her mother didn’t find out until she showed up to care for the memorial site, media outlets reported.

Lee Ann Meiborg was driving to West Chicago Community High School when she saw the tree for her daughter, Amanda, was gone, WMAQ in Chicago reported.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” the mother told WLS. “It’s another part of Amanda who’s gone now from our lives.”

Amanda Meiborg graduated as valedictorian of her class in 2002, according to the Associated Press. She died the next year of cancer at age 19, the AP reported.

Years later the family planted the tree and included a plaque embedded with small a vial of Amanda’s remains, a friend said on a GoFundMe page set up to raise money for a new memorial. It has raised nearly half of it’s $2,500 goal as of Wednesday afternoon.

“As Amanda was cremated, this memorial stone and autumn maple blaze acted as the official site for family and friends to pay their respects to Amanda over the years,” the family wrote in the letter to the school district posted on Facebook.

amanda3.jpg
A memorial tree planted for Amanda Meiborg at West Chicago Community High School was removed without notification of the family. She was valedictorian of her 2002 high school class and died from cancer a year later. Screengrab from Facebook. Screengrab from Facebook.

School officials said Amanda’s tree had to be removed to make way for construction of a new addition to the high school.

“We are a school with changing needs to accommodate our growing population,” the school said in a statement provided to WLS. “Therefore there is no place on our campus that is exempt from modification.”

After pushback, however, the school board is considering different ways to memorialize former students and teachers, including possibly creating scholarships or awards in their honor, according to the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago.

“This memorial for her daughter meant a great deal to her and she visited it often,” school board President Renee Yackey told the newspaper. “I apologized for the school’s oversight and insensitivity in how this was handled.”

Chacour Koop is a Real-Time reporter based in Kansas City. Previously, he reported for the Associated Press, Galveston County Daily News and Daily Herald in Chicago.
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