Cover Photo by Super Source Media. Other photos provided.
LOVE DEFINED BRADEN KRESSNER’S LIFE.
To remember Braden’s joyous spirit, on Friday, the new message board at Gavin Park was dedicated in his honor.
Braden was born with an improperly-formed liver. At just 14 weeks old, he became the youngest person, at the time, to receive a living-donor transplant from his mother, Michele. His second liver transplant was at the age of 4.
Although this surgical wonder made the national news, Braden Kressner is not remembered because of the health challenges he endured. He is remembered by all that he gave to the kids at Gavin Park.
“Being a camp counselor is an immense responsibility. You’re going to be in these kids’ lives for the majority of the summer. You’re lending them your ear, being their shoulder to lean on. The role of camp counselor is an important one,” said Matt Hart, Gavin Park’s Assistant Recreation Director.
THE LIFE OF THE PARTY
Gavin Park was a big part of Braden Kressner’s life.
While attending the nearby Dorothy Nolan Elementary School, he enjoyed doing crafts, activities, and sports at the park. Then, Braden served, for five years, as a Gavin Park summer camp counselor.
“He just loved working there and making the kids’ lives better,” said his father, Jeff Kressner.
At school, Braden was a member of the National Honor Society, the drama club, and the choir. At the park, in addition to being a counselor, he was the life of the party, working the concession stand, participating in Parkfest, birthday parties, the Breaker’s club, game nights, trips, and afterschool programs.
“Gavin Park was his ‘home away from home’. That’s really where he liked to be,” said Jeff.
Braden’s unparalleled love and devotion to the park was something his parents wanted to honor when he passed away suddenly in March, at 22 years old.
While away pursuing an education degree from SUNY Brockport, Braden developed a kidney infection that, in just a weekend, escalated, and resulted in sepsis.
In lieu of flowers, Braden’s parents asked that donations be sent to the Friends of Wilton Recreation non-profit group.
“We wanted a remembrance for him because he was very well liked there. We wanted something for them to hold onto because it happened so quick, and to do something to contribute to the park,” said Jeff.
The Friends of Wilton Recreation was formed seven years ago to help support Gavin Park.
“We do a little bit extra to enhance the park and to take away some of the burden from the town,” said Chairman, Joe Bartol.
Since it’s inception, the group has funded a scoreboard, benches, picnic tables, technology, and exercise equipment for the park.
A total of $2,500 was raised in honor of Braden, which paid for the park’s new, illuminated message board out front. It will hold information of current happenings, a plaque with a message from Braden and his photo.
“I’m so honored to know he’ll always be remembered,” said Braden’s mother, Michele at the dedication ceremony.
The Friends of Wilton Recreation is continuing their Buy-A-Brick Paver campaign to help fund fitness stations around the park. If you’d like to help build Gavin Park’s path into the future, find them on Facebook or go to friendsofwiltonrec.com/buy-a-brick-fundraising-campaign.