SARASOTA, Fla. - A memorial garden for kidnapping victim Carlie Brucia is being rededicated after volunteers stepped up to help make some much-needed repairs. Over the years, the memorial fell in disarray, but after months of work it's back to looking much more like it did when it was first dedicated.
"She just lit up a room. She was energetic. Just a beautiful smile," Carlie's father Joe Brucia said.
It's been 18 years since 11-year-old Carlie Brucia was abducted and murdered. In 2004, her abduction was caught on surveillance video, and it hit home for parents across the country, including Robb Wolf, a father of four.
"You know that could have been your kid the neighbor kids or whatever. We held our kids a little tighter. We didn't let them go for a long time," Wolf said.
In December, Wolf – who teaches plumbing and welding at Suncoast Technical College – was called in to repair a butterfly in Carlie's memorial garden first dedicated at McIntosh Middle School back in 2005. He noticed it wasn't the only thing in need of repair.
"Seventeen years had taken place, and it had worn, so we came out a few days later and tried fixing the water lines, tried to fix the irrigation valves to try and get some water on what plants were left," Wolf said. "We then realized this was not going to happen, so we decided to take it on as a community service project and let's make this thing right."
Since December, Wolf and his students have been working to make repairs redoing the irrigation system, planting flowers, spreading mulch and doing anything that needed repairs. Monday, Carlie's dad along with former teachers and the community came together for a special rededication ceremony to honor Carlie and the newly constructed memorial garden.
"She was just a lovely delightful child. ‘Good morning Ms. Larkin. Have a nice day Ms. Larkin.’ She was very, very sweet with her peers," Carlie's former teacher Darby Larkin said.
Going forward, Wolf said he and the community will make sure Carlie's butterfly garden will never again fall in disarray.
"It means a lot because I think she's looking down at this, and it makes her proud in a way as well," Carlie's father said.