Remembering Emma: Late 2-year-old’s day care plants flowers in her honor

WHEN Mom wasn’t looking, flower lover Emma Sweet sometimes picked the Easter lilies in her family’s blooming bed.

“She would give them to anybody and everybody,” said her mother Linsey Sweet. ” … Emma was such a giving child that she sometimes would even try to give away her toys.”

Mom laughed about her 2-year-old that she said also was tough enough to “rule the roost at home” as the only girl in a family of four youngsters.

“Those boys would do anything she asked of them,” Sweet said.

Today, family and friends are simply asking people to continue to remember the late Emma, a kid who loved all things Disney, especially after a family visit to Disney World last year, and the TV show “Baby Shark.” Toward keeping her joyful and impish memory alive, parents, children and friends of Lil’ Stars Daycare, 2308 Pearl St. in Columbus, planted flowers Sunday in Emma’s honor in a new, expansive, raised flower box, complete with an attached bench, built by Cory Huck. His wife, Katy Huck, a day care mother, proposed the idea of the planting.

The Hucks’ daughter Collette, was a good friend of Emma’s.

“I was shocked by the idea (of the planting) — in a very good way,” Sweet said.

“We wanted to just do something to focus on the good and the positive amid all of this,” Katy Huck said.

Searchers found the child Nov. 28 — the date that the coroner lists as her death — in the East Fork White River, following a multi-day search for her by local law enforcement, firefighters and local residents. The child had been with her father Jeremy Sweet before the two were reported missing Thanksgiving morning. The father was found by duck hunters in his submerged truck in the river the day after Thanksgiving.

The late Emma Sweet is being remembered by her local day care and family and friends.

The mother acknowledged that Bartholomew County residents, and even people across the country, have showered the family with love and kindness amid tremendous heartache. One Missouri man whose young brother died tragically created an artsy plaque for Emma, with her birthdate and date she died. That may be included in the day care’s flower box.

“The community has been so very supportive,” said Melodee Hand, Emma’s grandmother who operates the day care where Emma attended. “People just came out of the woodwork to help.”

The Hucks soon hope to add a butterfly bush, too, since Emma loved butterflies. She also loved being a pageant participant, after Mom entered her at eight months old in one competition in Greenwood. She eventually earned titles such as Baby Miss Bartholomew County and Tiny Miss Bartholomew County.

Understandably, Mom’s memories include an ample supply of adorable-beyond-compare portraits of her little one with nearly very imaginable hairstyle and outfit. But she has worked with family members and others to keep alive her daughter’s memory in other ways. The nonprofit Emma Grace Foundation, dedicated to boosting everything from family unity and Toys For Tots to the work of first responders, is another significant element.

A foundation fundraiser will be held from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 2 at El Toreo Restaurant, 10020 N. U.S. 31 in Taylorsville. Twenty percent of all sales in that time period, including both dine-in and carry out, will be donated to the organization.

On Aug. 27 at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds, organizers will host Emma’s Birthday Give-Back Community Day with classic cars and more to benefit the foundation.

“All this is just a way to honor Emma,” Sweet said.

Mom thought for a second about what her tyke would think about all this love and attention.

“Oh, she would love it,” she said. “She would just be beside herself over all this.”

Besides, like a flower, for the brief time that she grew, Emma made life a little more beautiful.