Westonka Dog Days going beyond pets to honor little boy killed last year
A popular event celebrating dogs in Mound has a special meaning this year.
The park where “Westonka Dog Days 2023” took place is in the midst of an effort to build a new playground commemorating a young boy who was murdered last year.
“You know, it’s a year and a half ago almost but it’s still very raw in a lot of people’s hearts,” said Tiffany Bietler, co-founder of the Eli Hart Foundation.
It’s a tragedy that struck the Mound community as a whole. 6-year-old Eli Hart’s life was taken too soon by his mother, who was convicted of first and second-degree murder earlier this year.
“My daughter went to the same school — Shirley Hills — as Eli,” said Bietler. “We’ve really gotten close with them and his foster family as well really gotten close to them.”
Bietler and two others started the Eli Hart Foundation — with a mission to build a new playground to replace the current one at Surfside Park.
“He loved to go to the playground. So that was a huge thing. That’s why we thought about doing the playground in his name and he specifically loved monkey bars,” said Bietler.
The project costs $340,000 — so far they’ve raised $220,000. With the help of Dog Days attendees like Joe Stein from Mound and his four-year-old, that goal is becoming more realistic.
“I think it’s definitely brought awareness to… the troubles and trials that, you know, kids face that we may not fully see,” said Stein. “It’s to try and build something beautiful out of tragedy, you know, and remembering… a child who was taken too soon.”
All the funds from the dunk tank, along with a portion of the Dog Days proceeds, will go toward building the playground — a place meant to bring all generations together.
“It’s amazing that people care so much and are coming together to support this,” said Bietler.