Kids were having fun last month at Tod Park as part of the third annual Kids Free Fun Day and Bookbag Giveaway, where kids could play and also receive a bookbag courtesy of the Lena, Mason and Christian Memorial Fund.
Kids were playing corn hole, getting their faces painted and getting balloons made from two clowns, Porgie the Clown and Carmel Apple. An impromptu football game broke out, which is an annual occurrence according to Cindy Michael, grandmother of 5-year-old Mason Cross and 1-year-old Christian Pizzulo, who were murdered along with their 22-year-old mother, Lena Cross, in a fire on Sept. 13, 2005.
Keeping alive the memory of the boys is what helps her get through, Michael said, although she admits that time has not dimmed her loss.
''It just came to us to do something good for other kids in memory of ours,'' Michael said.
''It's still a heart-wrenching tragedy,'' Michael said. ''You would think four years later you could go through times without being down, but it's still fresh. The wounds are still fresh.''
Saturday, Michael said, happens every year.
If they were there, Mason and Christian would be in the center of things, Michael said.
''They'd be running around playing,'' she said. ''I'm sure they would love the clowns.''
Mason, Christian and Cross were victims of the fire in their home on Dearborn Street. When firefighters arrived to fight flames, the house was engulfed. Autopsies revealed that the boys died of smoke inhalation while they slept in their beds and Cross suffered several stab wounds downstairs. Police determined an arsonist tried to cover up her murder.
Police were not able to make an arrest in the case but Michael said the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation and local police began reviewing evidence and interviewing people earlier this summer.
''We hold out that hope,'' Michael said, of finding out who is responsible for the deaths of Cross and the boys. ''There's so many unanswered questions.''
Milton Cross, the grandfather of Lena and great-grandfather of the boys, said, ''I hope this case can get solved as soon as possible.''
His wife, Willa, said Milton spent lots of time with Lena when she was a little girl.
''They were very close when she was young,'' Willa Cross said.
As he was tearing up, Milton Cross said he misses Lena.
''She was a good person. She loved people,'' Milton Cross said. ''She was easy to get along with. She was just an ordinary kid.''
Milton and Willa say they like the event because it not only helps out other kids, it also helps to keep alive the memory of Lena and her sons and keeps their case in the public eye.
Michael, who works for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said she could not hold the event without the efforts of several volunteers, including members of the AFL-CIO and family and friends. This year, more than 300 bookbags were given away.