Last year, Eric Leonard, a prosecutor in the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, died of a attenuate anatomy of lung cancer. He was 55. His afterlife larboard a huge aperture in the appointment — not aloof because he was a affectionate man, but because he was so acceptable at his job.
Leonard’s specialty was prosecuting adolescent sex abusers. That meant advancing adolescent accouchement — abounding of them beneath 10 — to accord affidavit in a attorneys area the accused abuser would best acceptable be present.
“Kids acquainted safe with him,” said Jill Gerber, abettor administrator of the office’s bent division. “And they acquainted that they could allocution to him. And really, adults and accouchement alike, aback they were speaking with Eric, they were like the alone being in the room.”
Leonard interviewed adolescent victims and assemblage in what’s alleged the “children’s room.” It’s not abundant bigger than a closet.
“That allowance acclimated to attending like this,” Gerber said, gesturing about at the appointment she was sitting in. “Bare walls, institutional appliance — whenever we’d accompany accouchement in to account or to talk, we were consistently advancing in with books in our accoutrements and toys and blimp animals.”
Gerber and her colleagues absitively that, in Eric Leonard’s memory, they would try to brighten up the allowance a bit. They contacted artisan Ara Elizabeth, who afresh appear a children’s book alleged “Rise and Shine.” She is additionally the artisan abaft a accepted backyard assurance that appearance a little babe and the words “Justice, Love, Humanity, Compassion, Unite.”
“Initially, they said, ‘Can you aloof do a painting for one of the walls in anamnesis of Eric?’ And I said, ‘Sure,'” Elizabeth recalled. “But I wasn’t abiding what the painting would be, and the allowance was absolutely abrupt and appealing arid and biscuit walls.”
The activity had some restrictions. Because the attorney’s appointment rents the appointment space, Elizabeth couldn’t acrylic annihilation anon on the walls. And because the administration is taxpayer-funded, the attorney’s appointment said it couldn’t pay her for her assignment — it could alone balance her for her art supplies.
Elizabeth has a accomplishments in adolescence apprenticeship and alive with at-risk populations. After audition about Eric Leonard’s work, she knew she capital the project.
“I anon was hit with all these ideas, and I was like, ‘OK, it can’t aloof be one painting it needs — the accomplished allowance has to transform,'” she said.
Elizabeth corrective several altered paintings that now adhere on the walls, but she additionally added mirrors and window frames, cardboard birds and affected plants. She begin a toy stove and a chiffonier and refurbished them with bright, animated colors and floral designs. Wet Acrylic donated art food and Red Balloon Bookshop donated account books and clear novels. Elizabeth additionally consulted with her three children, ages 10, 8 and 5 — they helped her acquisition fidget spinners and doughy toys for the kids to use aback they’re activity stressed.
Gerber said it’s a absolutely altered room.
“Now we can aloof airing into this whimsical, cottage-like, safe, fun room, and the kids can comedy and be airy while they allocution about things that happened to them,” she said. “So whatever it takes to accomplish them feel added comfortable.”
Most of all, she said, it’s a applicable accolade to her admired colleague.
“There isn’t annihilation that’s activity to accompany him back, but if he were to see it he would adulation it,” she said. “And I get a faculty and a activity that he is there.”
And in at atomic one sense, Eric Leonard is there. In the children’s allowance there’s a painting of a man with albino beard and aflush cheeks. He’s captivation out his hand, and aloft it floats a heart. Ara Elizabeth said it’s Eric, befitting watch over the children.
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