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Candlelight vigil expands Sykesville family's vision for Angel of Hope garden

Maryland's first Angel of Hope statue stands in a garden across from the South Carroll Senior and Community Center, on Mineral Hill Road, in Eldersburg.

The statue, depicting an angel with her arms raised and standing about 4 feet tall, is surrounded by two benches and a memorial wall.

When it was placed and dedicated earlier this year, it was the hope of the Eldersburg-based JOSH (Joining Others Seeking Healing) Foundation that people would find comfort in the meditation garden while remembering their loved ones, especially children.

"It's a perfect place for it," said Angela Ingram, of the small garden outside the senior center. "So peaceful and serene."

On Dec. 6, the foundation will welcome people to the garden's first-ever candlelight vigil. The nationwide event organized by the Angel of Hope movement aims to unite people at more than 100 angel gardens at 7 p.m. to honor and remember deceased children.

"You are able to spend time with others (and) share a common bond," said Cindy Hughes, Ingram's mother, about the vigil.

"We know the holidays are really hard for people," she said.

Hughes should know. She lost her 21-year-old son, Joshua Hughes, in a 2003 car accident in Eldersburg. It was his death that inspired the JOSH Foundation, and the creation of the garden in South Carroll.

The Angel of Hope statue stems from an idea in Richard Paul Evans' novel, "The Christmas Box," a story about a mother who loses a child and finds solace at an angel statue.

The first Angel of Hope statue was placed in a cemetery in Salt Lake City. When a second one was placed in Oklahoma to remember the children killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, it started a movement that has since swept across the county.

When Hughes learned about angel statues during her own period of grieving, she decided to bring one to Maryland. She formed the nonprofit JOSH Foundation where she and her daughter, Ingram, now work to spread the word about the statue and its mission.

It took seven years of fundraising, planning and marketing to get the statue erected — including help from the county to allow space at the senior center, which was being planned at the time. In May 2012, the statue and garden were officially dedicated.

"It was a long journey," Ingram said. "It is real nice to have it finally complete."

Now, the family wants to make sure the garden serves its main purpose as a place of peaceful remembrance, and the Dec. 6 event is part of that mission.

At the vigil, the foundation will provide flowers and candles. People are invited to hang any ornaments they desire on a "Tree of Remembrance" that will be placed there as well. Lisa Johnson, an Angel of Hope representative for Richard Paul Evans, will also speak at the service.

"It will be a special part of our program to have her there and speak," Hughes said of Johnson. "We're excited and anxious."

"It will be about a 30-minute service," Ingram said.

Noting that the Carroll County event will coincide with others across the country, Ingram said, "It is nice to think about all that togetherness. Somewhere else, people are doing the same thing."

The candlelight vigil at the Angel of Hope statue and Memorial Garden at the South Carroll Senior and Community Center, 5928 Mineral Hill Road, Eldersburg, will be held Thursday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m.

People are invited to attend and lay flowers and light a candle in remembrance of a lost loved one. People are also invited to bring an ornament (which should be weatherproof) to hang on the Tree of Remembrance.

When the service is over, refreshments will be served in the senior center dining room.

RSVPs are requested to allow for the foundation to have enough flowers and candles on hand. Email j.o.s.h.foundation@comcast.net.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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    The Angle of Hope statue at South Carroll Senior and Community Center in Eldersburg. A candlelight vigil will be held at the statue on Dec. 6. The family of Josh Hughes, whose death help inspire the statute's placement in Eldersburg, is organizing the event, and said since the holiday season is...

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    The Angel of Hope statue at South Carroll Senior and Community Center in Eldersburg.

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