Wednesday wasn’t a day that Jack and Chrissi Lillard would have ever imagined more than seven years ago, and would surely have been happy never to have seen at all.

The couple joined officials from the city of Frederick for the official groundbreaking for Sophie and Madigan’s Playground, the facility named after their two young daughters who died in a fire at the family’s Myersville home in January 2013.

“In an instant, they were gone,” Jack Lillard said at the ceremony, which was streamed Wednesday afternoon.

The tragedy taught their family the value of creating memories both big and small that your family can look back on later, he said.

They want the playground to be a place where families can come to create their own memories.

With Wednesday’s ceremony, their plans moved one step closer to fruition.

“What started out as us trying to turn tragedy into hope has turned into reality today,” Lillard said.

The playground will be part of the larger Westside Regional Park being developed near Frederick’s Hillcrest neighborhood.

It will include a carousel-themed gazebo, an amphitheater and three differently themed play areas that reflected the interests of Sophie, 6, and Madigan, 3.

Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor said the area will be “so much more than just a playground” and will be a destination play area in the city.

He thanked the Lillards “for sharing your family so openly with the city of Frederick.”

The playground will cost $1.5 million to build, and they’ve raised $850,000 so far, with donations coming from all 50 states, Jack Lillard said Wednesday.

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter: @RMarshallFNP

Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at

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