Nearer to Natalie; from grief to giving

IVINS — The east block of 1100 North in Ivins was transformed Friday evening into a neighborhood birthday celebration adorned with lights, balloons, bounce houses and birthday cake in honor of Natalie Petersen, who died in a tragic accident in 2014. The event doubled as a neighborhood toy drive and celebration of the toddler’s life on what would have been her 5th birthday.

The 1100 Block was transformed for the 'Nearer to Natalie' toy drive and celebration Friday in Ivins, Utah, Nov. 11, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News
The 1100 Block was transformed for the ‘Nearer to Natalie’ toy drive and celebration Friday in Ivins, Utah, Nov. 11, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The “Nearer to Natalie” event, which supports the Toys for Tots program, featured cake tables, bounce houses, refreshments and games. Two rows of cardboard boxes labeled “Toys for Tots,” were also placed along the street where participants could donate new toys that would be collected later.

The Ivins Fire Department joined the festivities with two fire engines and an ambulance that remained on site in show of support. Tours were provided to the younger guests, giving many a closer look at the inside of a fire engine. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office contributed with a rock climbing wall.

“We really wanted to come out here to support the neighborhood,” acting Fire Chief Nick Hallman of Ivins Fire Department said.

The tight-knit neighborhood and the entire Ivins community were brought together two years before as tragedy struck the Petersen family when their daughter, 2-year-old Natalie Petersen, died after a car backed into her while she was playing on the driveway of the family’s home.

Toys for Tot's' boxes were placed in various locations around the 'Nearer to Natalie' toy drive and celebration Friday in Ivins, Utah, Nov. 11, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News
Toys for Tot’s’ boxes were placed in various locations around the ‘Nearer to Natalie’ toy drive and celebration Friday in Ivins, Utah, Nov. 11, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

“Rather than focusing on the tragedy, the Petersen family decided to bring neighbors and friends together,” Jennifer Petersen, Natalie Petersen’s mother, said, “where we have the opportunity to find a new appreciation and strength by giving back to the community.”

The toy drive was an integral part of the festivities to benefit Toys for Tots, a nationwide organization by the U.S. Marine Corps started in 1927 to bring toys to needy children for Christmas.

“We wanted to help the Toys for Tots drive to help our community — because our community supported us,” Linda Petersen, Natalie Petersen’s grandmother, said.

Toys for Tots provides presents to children all over the country. Last year, more than 9 million presents were delivered nationwide, retired Marine Gy. Sgt. and Toys for Tots coordinator Rick Massey said.

“After counting the toys that were placed in boxes during the party,” Massey said, “we counted 212 really nice toys that will be wrapped and delivered a few days before Christmas.”

The Petersens also provided a table with brochures and information packets on the ‘Spot the Tot’ program, which is designed to raise awareness and protect children from being accidentally backed over by cars.

The Ivins Fire Department joined in the festivities with two fire trucks that were placed near the bounce houses at the 'Nearer to Natalie' toy drive and celebration in Ivins, Utah, Nov. 11, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News
The Ivins Fire Department joined in the festivities with two fire trucks that were placed near the bounce houses at the ‘Nearer to Natalie’ toy drive and celebration in Ivins, Utah, Nov. 11, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital and Safe Kids Utah sponsor the nationwide campaign that is underway to protect small children from preventable auto accidents by educating drivers to walk around the entire car before backing up, helping to prevent deadly accidents before they happen.

“We became involved in the program because we want to do everything we can to prevent another family from going through the pain and loss that we were faced with,” Jennifer Petersen said.

Over the past ten years, more than 60 Utah children were killed, and more than 500 were injured by accidental back overs. Every six days a Utah child is run over in a driveway or parking lot. Most at risk are children under the age of five, according to information obtained from Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

“We wanted to honor Natalie’s love for everyone by helping other children at Christmas,” Jennifer Petersen said, “and also to support a program that can keep these little ones safer in the future.”

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Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • .... November 13, 2016 at 7:32 am

    We went and brought some toys for the program and it was so nice to see all those people out there celebrating and supporting the cause. we are truly blessed for living in such a loving and caring community. Praise the Lord

    • Bob November 13, 2016 at 3:20 pm

      bless u, Brother Dump. i’ll 2nd it, Praise the Lord!

  • .... November 13, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    Amen to that sister Dumbob

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