Community members seek support for Massillon park upgrade in teen’s memory
DGKN staff report
MASSILLON The Community for the Improvement of Lawndale Park, a group of local residents with a great interest in creating and fostering recreational opportunities for youths on the southwest side of Massillon, is seeking support and donations for a park project in memory of a teen lost too soon.
To a young kid growing up on the southwest side of Massillon, Lawndale Park was a big backyard.
Across the street from his 13th Street SW house and off of Karn Avenue, Jake Brown and his older brother, James Brown IV, played with friends and family on the play structure, swings and basketball court – and enjoyed the freedom and space of the open field. Jake learned how to skateboard on the basketball court thanks to a neighbor’s dad – a skill that stuck with him.
When a builder approached the city with interest in developing the property, the young brothers’ mom, Megan Brown, spoke up at a city council meeting in November 2011 about the importance of saving the park for her children and neighbors and future generations.
On Oct. 16, 2022, Jake Brown died in a car crash leaving behind his parents, Megan and James Brown III, brother James, and a large extended family, as well as many friends who considered him family. The Central Catholic junior who won people over immediately with his warm smile and can-do attitude touched countless lives in the numerous activities, sports and endeavors he was involved in over his 16 years. A Boy Scout who loved to fish any chance he had, Jake was on his way to earning the rank of Eagle Scout and he discovered an interest in helping with Habitat for Humanity. In his spare time, he could be found with a camera in hand getting that perfect scenic shot, or laughing with family and friends over board games.
A love of sports and the outdoors and cherishing friendships made along the way have always been big in the Brown family. A natural and dedicated athlete, Jake excelled at any sport he tried. He was a star on the soccer field playing for the Central Catholic Crusaders as well as a valuable member of the close-knit swim team.
One of Jake Brown’s true passions was lacrosse. Tape remains on the Browns’ house marking a spot where he practiced the sport, which is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States and is gaining interest in Stark County. Jake participated in tryouts and clinics for a new competitive lacrosse club that was formed recently to provide opportunities for middle and high school students to learn about the sport and build skills.
Jake’s legacy continues in many ways as the community has rallied around his family.
Close friends of the Browns brainstormed a way to pay special tribute to Jake Brown’s childhood on the southwest side and to continue his mission of spreading awareness and teaching youth about the sport of lacrosse by providing the equipment and a place to practice.
A memorial multi-purpose sports wall to practice lacrosse, soccer and other sports, with a plaque and mural dedicated to Jake Brown is the main upgrade the group of family members and friends is proposing for the park, which already has received a nod of approval from Massillon Parks and Recreation Board.
The group also has plans for a sports equipment lending library, sidewalk upgrades, benches and picnic tables and a Gaga ball pit.
Lawndale Park is not one of the city’s busiest parks but sees a steady trickle at all hours of the day of children, teens, basketball players and dog walkers. The proposed upgrades seem to come at a good time as the parks and recreation department already has plans to improve the basketball court with hoops and resurfacing and a net to prevent the ball from rolling into the road. As word spreads, people are getting on board to make the upgrades possible with donations of time, work and materials.
An estimated $20,000 may still be needed for the memorial wall with a mural to be painted by well-known local muralist Scot Phillips. Anyone who would like to contribute is welcome to donate via check made out to Knights of Columbus 5582 and mailed to:
Knights of Columbus 5582
Attn: Financial secretary James Brown
545 Overdale Ave. NW
Canton, OH 44708
An online gofundme.com account has been set up “For Jake – Lawndale Park improvements” and has raised $3,500 toward the $20,000 goal.
For more information about the project or how to help, email Robert McCune at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once funds are secured, the group will present the proposal to Massillon City Council.
Jake Brown’s loved ones hope others will come on board:
* To improve a neighborhood park;
* To build community pride;
* To promote the sport of lacrosse and other sports and outdoor activities;
* To encourage children and families to get outside, use the park, and enjoy what
Massillon has to offer; and
* To help keep alive the spirit of Jacob “Jake” T. Brown, a boy who loved to play here.