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Denver7 Gives viewers donate $17,000 to update lighting at Columbine Memorial

Denver7 was able to deliver a check to Rick Townsend and the Columbine Memorial Foundation to help the lights stay on well into the future.
Posted: 10:29 PM, Jun 18, 2024
Updated: 2024-06-19 16:14:23-04
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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — Among the many visitors to the Columbine Memorial on a recent Tuesday morning was Kelly McKinney, a new Littleton resident who just moved from Chicago. It was her second time visiting the memorial.

“It’s nice that they have this dedication wall for all the people, but really sad. It was nice to read their personal stories,” said McKinney.

She was particularly touched by the inscription on Kyle Velazquez’s tribute.

“I'm a special ed teacher. So the story about the young man who had developmental delays and just started at that high school really hit home to me,” she said.

McKinney’s thoughts are just one of the countless personal moments and reflections that still weigh on Rick Townsend’s heart. His daughter, Lauren, was one of the 13 victims.

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Rick Townsend, father of Lauren and President of Columbine Memorial Foundation reads the inscription from her tribute plaque inside the 'Ring of Remembrance'

As president of the Columbine Memorial Foundation Board, he’s looking ahead to the future of the memorial in hopes the lessons learned will stretch out for generations to come.

“We may not have as many people who have a vested interest in what happened at Columbine, so we have to look 25 years ahead,” said Townsend. “We want this to be here.”

With the groundbreaking in 2006 and the opening of the memorial the following year, this hallowed space is beginning to show signs of aging under the Colorado weather.

Beyond the normal maintenance of the memorial are major, much-needed yet costly updates that will help ensure the light shines on at the Columbine Memorial. One of those big expenses will come in the form of a new lighting system, which is needed to replace old lights that they struggle to keep on.

“They’re halogen lights, so they have a lot of heat. They’re in big canisters because of that heat, and water has crept into the bottom,” said Townsend.

Those lights often burn out, making it difficult to read the words etched into the Wall of Remembrance along the back of the memorial. Those words on the plaques are also fading.

“You can see the infill has fallen out on this particular wall. There was a lot of damage from hail that knocked these out of there. We need to go back and refurbish all these so they can be read more easily,” Townsend said.

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Columbine: 25 Years Later

Columbine Memorial: How you can help these much-needed updates come to life

Jeff Anastasio
7:20 AM, Apr 16, 2024

The solution to these needs is now closer to reality.

In April, we launched a Denver7 Gives campaign to raise funds for these big projects. Thanks to our incredible viewers, around $17,000 was donated.

Denver7 was able to deliver a check to Townsend and the Columbine Memorial Foundation to help the lights stay on well into the future.

“Through Denver7, we got $17,000, and that is really helpful to us,” said Townsend. “We had people who saw the footage that Denver7 put out on that and for Denver7 Gives, and a number of them gave large amounts of money.”

Help Columbine Memorial get new lights, other upgrades

He said donations through other sources after the exposure brought in tens of thousands of dollars.

“I think we are a little under $60,000 that we received after the Denver7 Gives footage,” Townsend added.

The foundation has contracted with a design firm to come up with an improved lighting system. Since Denver7’s story was shared in April, Townsend said business owners with big hearts have stepped up to give more.

“We've had several lighting companies that have reached out to help, and they have mentioned things like either really deep discounts or donation of some of the lighting fixtures,” he said.

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Colorado's sun and weather conditions have taken a toll on the letters on the Wall of Healing.

The hope is that by the end of the year, brand-new lights will shine bright on the Columbine Memorial.

“I just want to say how thankful I am, personally, for this because I have a real vested interest in this since my daughter, Lauren, died in the library at Columbine,” said Townsend. “So to see the outpouring of care from the community, even 25 years later, has been really helpful for me and my family.”

If you’d still like to donate to help with major repairs at the Columbine Memorial, we are keeping the Denver7 Gives campaign open. Scroll down to the form below and choose "Help update the Columbine Memorial" from the drop-down menu.

We will keep you updated on the progress of the new lights, and thank you to everyone who opened their hearts to give.

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Rick Townsend at the 'Never Forgotten' banner inside the Columbine Memorial.

Denver7 features the stories of people who need help and now you can help them with a cash donation through Denver7 Gives. One hundred percent of contributions to the fund will be used to help people in our local community.

To donate to this campaign or choose another to support, use the secure form below.

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