Groundbreaking ceremony for memorial playground held on Zahra's birthday


HICKORY, N.C. - Ground was broken for a playground dedicated to Zahra Baker on Wednesday, which would have been her 12th birthday.

Zahra was found dead last year, more than a month after being reported missing from her Hickory home. Her stepmother, Elisa Baker, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in her death.

Many of the people involved in the investigation into Zahra’s death and the prosecution of her stepmother were in the crowd Wednesday.

“This was tough on the community,” said Thurman Whisnant with Hickory police. “It was tough on the department (and on) the officers. This is a great day to bring some closure to the community.”

“I don't think anybody has seen something like this,” said District Attorney Jay Gaither. “It was a barbaric atrocity that has not been seen across the state.”

Many people donated time and money for the playground in Zahra’s name in Hickory. The Kiwanis Club raised $175,000 for the project.

At the ceremony on Wednesday, organizers showed drawings of what the playground will look like when it’s finished. Part of the playground will be for handicapped children. Zahra was a cancer survivor and had a prosthetic leg.

One group of Girl Scouts plans to build a butterfly garden to remember Zahra.

“It was just very cool to see how everybody came together,” Girl Scout Marjorie Cole said.

Organizers hope to have the Zahra Baker All Children’s Playground finished by May. It will be located at 805 6th Street, SE, in Hickory.

If you would like to donate or get more information on the Zahra Playground, visit