VIDEO: Love is in the air as a father's vision of a lasting legacy comes to fruition, Sunnyside Trail is dedicated in memory of Lexi Mason
MIDDLETOWN, NJ: To the saying, "Every Life is Precious," 12-year-old Alexis 'Lexi' Mason lived on the earth a short time, but the positive impact and the love for and from Lexi is forever present in the community. Lexi's kindness and compassion for others and her enthusiasm for life made a permanent positive change in the lives of those who were fortunate to know her. Those that didn't know her wish they did as they become acquainted with her spirit through all of the beautiful memories her loved ones share.
It was July 23rd, 2013, when Lexi at the age of 12, was training with Saint Mary's Soccer Club at Monmouth County's Sunnyside Recreation Area in Middletown, when her life was unexpectedly and tragically taken by sudden cardiac arrest.
July 23rd for the Mason family is forever a day that marks the worst day--the unimaginable. However for a bereaved parent, it's not about the one day their child died. The pain of their child passing, the love for them and the 'missing' is every moment of every day. It is a life long journey that no one should have to walk and no one can fully understand unless they themselves are a bereaved parent.
On July 23rd of this past week, on the 6th Angelversary of Lexi's passing, the Mason family, parents Rob and Denise, younger sisters Jess and Bri, had something to look forward to as hundreds in the community gathered to honor and remember Lexi. All gathered at the Sunnyside Recreation Area, where Lexi once ran, trained, played, laughed. It's a place where her cheerful voice was last heard, where her smile was shared. For the Mason family the trail at Sunnyside Recreation is a sacred place. It is a place where Lexi's dad Rob had a vision to create a permanent solid memorial to honor his daughter Lexi.
The days leading up to the 23rd of this month were full with rainstorms, tornado warnings and dark skies. Even the early part of Tuesday July 23rd was cloudy and questionable. In the hours right before the 7pm gathering the sun welcomed the community to Lexi's event.
Lexi's mom Denise comments, "Today gave our family something to look forward to. Every day is a difficult day without Lexi but today we had something to do and somewhere to go for Lexi. It made the day bearable knowing today is dedicated to her. We love and miss her so much."
When entering the park hundreds of colorful balloons at the top of the hill were visible, large butterfly balloons, heart shaped, I Love You Balloons, the number 27 (Lexi's soccer number and also her birthday is the 27th of February), and most prominently seen was a giant dark purple heart with letters spelling out LOVE. In the distance you could hear the sound of bagpipes. As you walked into the crowd you were surrounded by a sea of purple, pink, blue, and black shirts with angel wings, many with Lexi's number 27, many with her name across the front, all representing relationships held close with Lexi.
VIDEO: See the crowd forming and listen to the bagpipes playing by Mike Hannigan (whose oldest son Michael went to school with Lexi):
Governor Murphy and First Lady Tammy were present, the Monmouth County Freeholders, Senator O'Scanlon, Police Chief Weber, Mayor Tony Perry and Middletown Township Committee, Middletown Township Police and First Responders... babies and stollers, wheelchairs and canes, children playing, running, rolling in the grass. There were lots of smiles, laughter, hugs and many tears being wiped away. It was an emotional event.
Lexi's dad Rob Mason, an Edison Firefighter, began the dedication ceremony by thanking the Governor and all of the the elected officials and friends and family who made the event possible. He commented, "Lexi touched our lives in many ways...she was always smiling and she was always happy... No matter what she did or was doing she gave it her all... I had a vision to have a boulder and this trail named in her honor, to be here long after we all are gone... It's all of you here today that made this Lexi trail possible..." Lexi's Dad Rob also mentioned how much it meant to the family that almost every student in what should be her graduating class of Middletown South 2019, wore a pin in memory of Lexi at the graduation ceremony.
Mayor Tony Perry made a heartfelt speech commenting, "I don't think I could fathom what it must be like to lose a child... but often through tragedy you find yourself doing great things, not only inspiring people but instilling hope because that is what this earth is built on...You guys (the Mason family) are that. You are inspiring hope in all of us..." Mayor Perry went on to declare July 23, Alexis Mason Day on behalf of the Middletown Township Committee.
Governor Murphy a Middletown resident himself commented, "We are in the category of folks who never met Lexi, but her legacy is extraordinary...we are here tonight because of her...because of a gal we actually never met but because of the work through her foundation, through the passion and love of her family, extended family and the passion and love of community, we are here tonight...Lexi has exerted her influence on us...as moms and dads we are here to salute a girl that has changed countless lives for the better..."
VIDEO: Listen to Lexi's dad Rob Mason, Mayor Tony Perry and Governor Phil Murphy:
Next Police Chief Weber commented, recalling that fateful day in 2013 when the police held a vigil at the hospital praying that Lexi would somehow make it. "We typically handle over 50,000 calls for service a year. The vast majority are very routine...then there are a handful you remember the rest of your life.... this call six years ago today is one of them...we had a vigil at the hospital that day, about a dozen police officers and first aiders there. I know we will never forget and thanks to this memorial many more will remember."
Following Chief Weber was the official ribbon cutting for the monument boulder naming the trail; The Lexi Trail. The three ton boulder was donated by Tom Benning and family, owner of T. Benning Landscaping in Holmdel. The Benning's daughter dances with Lexi's sisters Brianna and Jessica at Emotion In Motion Dance Center, where Lexi loved to dance. Emotion In Motion supports the Alexis Mason Foundation with an annual event.
Mayor Tony Perry made the intro and Lexi's sisters Jess and Bri cut the ribbon as the crowd erupted in applause. The memorial boulder bas a plaque dedication reading:
VIDEO: Official Ribbon Cutting for 'Lexi Trail':
Following the ribbon cutting was the balloon release. One of the most stand-out balloons was a dark purple big heart with the word LOVE boldly across the front. That balloon can be seen flying high in many of the pictures and videos. The man holding onto the string attached is Lexi's maternal grandfather Tony Corsaro. He purchased the balloon for his granddaughter and personalized it with a ribbon tied to it holding a picture of his late wife, Lexi's grandmother Janice, who had passed before Lexi. With tears streaming he commented, "Lexi was with us all the time. She was my girl. My wife and I love her so much. She would share time with us all the time. She had to be perfect in sports and school, nothing but perfect. She was compassionate for others. I was with her two days before she died practicing softball for hours. My wife died before Lexi, and I know she would not be able to live without her. It would have been too much for her. They were inseparable before my wife passed. Lexi cared about everyone and would sell lemonade all summer to help kids with cancer. She enjoyed playing with everyone. She included everybody. I miss her so much." The culminating event was the balloon release seen in the video below.
VIDEO: Watch the balloon release for Lexi Mason, led by her sisters Jess and Bri, who mom Denise said Lexi loved being a big sister to, more than anything. As the balloon release began the bagpipes did too. Watch and listen here:
Lexi had a passion for sports and dance. She played soccer and softball and she danced. Lexi was compassionate, she cared for others. The Mason family pays it forward in Lexi's memory with the Alexis Mason Foundation, created to celebrate Lexi's life and award scholarships to children.
About The Alexis Mason Foundation
In 2013 the Alexis Mason Foundation was created to celebrate the life of a young girl whom aspired at greatness and exceeded in kindness. Both on and off the field Alexis would always have others in mind. Whether playing softball or soccer she knew there was no I in Team. Her passion for dance continues to inspire those to whom she has touched with her performances. She felt so strongly in the fight against children’s cancer she would work all summer selling lemonade with her sisters and friends to help support Alex’s Lemonade Stand. Alexis knew the meaning of paying it forward.
Every year the Alexis Mason Foundation award scholarships to children for sports, arts, and academics so that they too can follow their passion and dreams. The foundation also makes a monetary donation to both the American Heart Association and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for their continued work in heart research as well as continuing to support Alex’s Lemonade stand in Lexi’s memory. Lexi was born in Edison where she lived for the first six years of her life before the Mason's moved to Middletown. When Lexi passed she had just completed sixth grade with high honors at Thompson Middle School in Middletown.