A local group of hiking friends met Sunday at the Grey Flats Trails near Paul Cline Memorial Soccer Complex to plant a garden in memory of Delaney Wykle.

Wykle died in a helicopter crash off an island in the Bahamas, along with six others, on July 4. She had just found out a day before that she had passed her nursing board exam.

“Delaney was a very kind, compassionate young lady that had such a bright future ahead of her,” noted family friend Deb Evans. “She also loved adventure and nature.”

This group of friends of the family wanted to do something to honor Wykle’s memory. They began with the idea to do a memory garden, and they decided the most fitting place was on the trails behind the soccer complex. This group of friends, who call themselves the Happy Hikers, meet several times a week for 3-to-6-mile hikes on the trails. Delaney’s mother, Paula Wykle, is an active member of the hiking group and has been friends with some of the other group members for over 30 years.

“We’ve shared a lot of good times and we’ve also shed a lot of tears together through life’s up and downs,” the women noted in a press release. “We’ve always been there to support each other, but we’ve never had to deal with a loss so devastating and sad. We just feel so helpless. We wanted to do something positive that could maybe help Delaney’s family in the future and the Garden seemed like a fitting and purposeful idea.”

Businesses and individuals have donated and discounted plants, mulch, and supplies to make the garden a reality.

“We greatly appreciate the help of Greenbrier Nursery, Lowe’s, CPI, City of Beckley, Mayor Rob Rappold, and Gary Moorefield, recreational trail specialist for the city. Everyone has pitched in to make this bigger and better than we thought possible,” the group said.

The dozen hikers along with other friends and family members showed up early Sunday morning with shovels, rakes, mulch forks, garden gloves, and other tools and items to plant the garden. They spent most of the day working on planting a variety of trees, shrubs, bushes, and flowers. A few of the members had tilled the garden earlier in the week, making it easier to work with the soil Sunday.

A temporary sign was also ordered a few weeks ago and will be installed this week. A permanent sign is planned but will take more time and money before it can be ordered.

“We’ve had so many details to work out to bring the garden to life and it’s helped so much to have people who are ready and able to offer assistance when needed,” the women noted.

Maintaining the garden will be an ongoing project for the hikers. Even after Sunday’s planting, there is still a lot more work to be done. The group consulted with local “green thumbs” to make sure they went about creating the garden for lasting beauty.

“At this point, we are all pitching in to meet the financial needs of the project,” they said.

To donate towardd the expenses, checks can be made out to Dena Cushman and mailed to her in c/o Delaney’s Garden at 105 Partridge Lane, Beckley, WV 25801. The group set up a checking account specifically to handle payments and donations. Please note “Delaney’s Garden” on the memo line. For more information, contact any of the hikers or Dena Cushman at 304-673-0892, Tammy Hancock Cline at 304-575-0672, Lori Smith at 304-731-0366, or Deb Evans at 304-673-5050.

A formal dedication ceremony for “Delaney’s Garden” is planned for Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 6 p.m. This date was chosen because it would have been Wykle’s 23rd birthday.

“We know this will be a very difficult day for the family and we hope that in some small way, by remembering and honoring Delaney with a beautiful garden, this will be a helpful step forward in the family’s grief,” the group members said.

The public is invited to attend.

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